There’s something you want to keep in mind any time you’re tempted to people-please. And it’s this: everyone is on their own journey. Meaning, two things:
There is only so much you can do for anyone else. You can’t make other people happy. Their happiness is ultimately their business.
Even though you might not be able to perceive it in the moment, whatever someone else is going through is giving them something that is somehow, in some way, going to benefit them. I KNOW THIS CAN FEEL HARD! And maybe even like I’m trying to bright-side you. Or like I’m saying that somehow we shouldn’t support the people we care about when they’re going through a challenge. We absolutely should offer our support to our friends and loved ones during tough times. Of course we should! But we shouldn’t swoop in and try to fix all their problems for them.
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Here’s a silly little example
I really do try to encourage my kids to do as much for themselves as they can, even though there is a definite voice in my head that tells me that in order to be a ‘good mom’ I should do as much for them as possible.
The kids are 12 and 10 and since we’ve been in quarantine, they are preparing most of their own breakfasts and lunches. And they’re baking. Oh, are they baking! Just in the last few days, they’ve made rice krispie treats, chocolate chip cookies, and pancakes. This morning my son was checking the bananas to see if they were ripe enough to make banana bread. So many baked goods, I could just cry, haha.
My point is, especially at the beginning of their cooking journeys, there would be a moment when I would hear, Mom! I can’t do this! Whether it was opening a jar or getting the can opener to work or what have you. And I swear, 99.5% of the time, as soon as they said they couldn’t do something, they figured it out in the next five seconds. And that figuring it out for themselves got them a lot more psyched about their respective learning-to-cook journeys.
If I had swooped in every time they struggled with something, I’d still be slinging all the breakfasts and lunches around here. And I’d be worn out, frustrated, and probably pretty darn crabby. And you would not be listening to this episode right now because maybe I would have told myself it’s too hard to produce a daily podcast and have kids at home.
Resist The Urge To People-Please
Now, I get that this is a pretty benign example. Maybe you want to swoop in to help someone with a situation that’s a lot more intense and perhaps even perilous than opening a can of chickpeas. By reminding yourself that everyone is on their own journey, it will help you remember that you can’t make anyone else happy, and that there’s more to the situation than you are likely able to perceive.
Do your best, offer your love, offer your support, offer your help, but also remember, we all have a path we have to walk, and sometimes that will mean we have to learn through hardship. No one gets through this life without it.
I have a related episode on this, called The Peril of Trying to Fix People’s Problems. It’s episode 138 if you want to search it up, as my kids say.
Have Your Frodo Moment
Is it a coincidence that as I’m writing the script for this episode, my kids are watching the first Lord of the Rings movie in the other room? Ha. No, no I don’t think it is. We’re all going to have our Frodo moment. Of course Frodo had Samwise and the other hobbits, and Viggo Mortenson, and Gandalf and all the other guys in the Fellowship of the Ring to help him, but ultimately it was his journey to Mordor. If any one of his cronies had tried to do the job for him they would have just mucked it up and prolonged it. And it was already a really long movie trilogy, hahaha.
Daily Tiny Assignment
So, your tiny assignment is this: The next time you want to people-please and do something for someone else, remind yourself, they are on their own journey. Let it help you shift from swooping in to maybe hovering at a little bit of a remove. You know, keep an eye on them, let them know you’re standing by, but don’t swing into action. And notice that holding back a little bit gives you more space and energy to assess how you’re doing, and what you need to do to take care of yourself so that you can be a better support and a better model to the person who’s having to carry the ring to Mordor.
And be sure to come back tomorrow, when I’m declaring a new national holiday that should alleviate quite a lot of guilt and be a great way to flex your non-people-pleasing muscles!