Living Authentically: Stop Worrying About What Other People Think
By DebOwen on April 27, 2012
I’ve been getting a lot of emails and feedback lately on living authentically, which just so happens to be one of my favorite topics. I could go on about it for days. Of course, living authentically is that deep.
There are a lot of facets and angles to it, so there’s no quick fix. (There never really is.) But real progress can be made.
One of the biggest enemies to living authentically is caring too much about what other people think.
Especially when it’s taken even farther….to people-pleasing.
People-pleasing isn’t really about other people at all. It’s really about you.
And God-pleasing, as spiritually admirable as it might sound, isn’t about God either. It’s about you.
When we’re people-pleasing, or God-pleasing, we start trying to extract the things about us that we believe the other person will find unappealing and unattractive.
But if we’re honest, we do this so that the other will….(fill in the blank….like me, love me, bless me, remember my birthday, help me with that project, show appreciation or gratitude, applaud my speaking skills)
Whatever you fill in that blank with is what you’re really after.
You’re trying to fill that hole inside with the opinion of others reflecting to you what youwant to believe about yourself.
Whether that’s to believe that you’re lovable, accomplished, intelligent, a magnanimous being for being so selfless in service…..
Who & What You Attract
There are many reasons people-pleasing is a dangerous game. But the least of which is this:
When you’re a people-pleaser, you’re manipulatable.
And so guess who you attract into your life.
People who manipulate. People who will know that you can’t say no.
People who will not mind one least little bit that you’re exhausted, they’ll ask you to join yet another committee or service project because they know you have to say yes…..to be liked. Maybe they don’t know it outright. But on some level, they know.
I get it. I’ve done it.
I’ve done this to the extreme (as I’ve done most things in life).
I once fell for a guy. (It’s always a guy, isn’t it?) I fell hard. I mean….hard. He was an alcoholic who had gone back to drinking. But I had fallen for him. So what did I do? Well….I wanted him to love me, right?
So I pretty much enabled him as much as I possibly could right up until the point where I both a) finally figured out that my people-pleasing was leading to enabling and learned what enabling was to begin with and b) didn’t want to cause myself – or him – any more pain or damage. So I stopped.
And that was a big lesson in giving up people-pleasing for me. Because regardless of what I felt or what I wanted or the empty hole inside that I wanted to fill with his love, I had to give it up. I had to stop. I really didn’t have much choice unless I wanted to self-destruct or sit around and watch while he did. And that didn’t sound pleasant at all.
But that was also the moment when I understood how destructive people-pleasing and caring too much what people think truly is as well.
When you’re people-pleasing, you short-change other people by giving them less than they deserve. At the same time, you short-change yourself.
If a counselor cares too much what their patients think or say about them, they aren’t free to give an honest diagnosis.
An entrepreneur who cares too much what people think will never truly serve their tribe, as they try to be all things to everyone.
A pastor’s wife will never truly connect or be truly known in her congregation, as she puts on the social mask and seeks everyone’s approval and therefore never truly connects with anyone as herself.
On a job interview, not being who you are and giving all the right answers while behaving the way you’re supposed to can land you in an environment that is so wrong for you, it will be toxic.
And in a relationship?
To be truly known, you have to risk being who you are authentically — the inside mess and all.
You find yourself applauded….for who you’re not.
You find yourself validated….for who you’re not.
And that, my friends, is painful. Because then, while you’ve received the outside thing you were looking for….in your heart, you know you faked it.
In your heart, you know it isn’t real.
In your heart, you know the love, the accolades, the validation….doesn’t really count. It isn’t real.
Because it’s all based on the false premise of who you presented yourself to be just to make the other people happy.
And that….is miserable.
I’ve tried it. And while it’s a learning process to let what others think control you so you get what you’re looking for go…..
Then you’re left wondering if you’d shown up authentically, would it have turned out differently? And that’s hell.
Start Living Aware
It starts where it always starts. It starts with being aware. Are you people-pleasing? Are you saying yes when you really mean to say no? How do you behave when you’re not being yourself?
When I’m in ‘people-pleasing mode’ I talk super-fast – even faster than normal – my shoulders crunch up and my jaw tightens….when I’m being myself, I’m relaxed, but strong.
My posture, the way I talk, it all shifts. Yours does too. Become aware of the difference.
Until we remember. And we find ourselves again.
When we return to love, return to who we are, return to who God says we are.
We remember we already are loved. And through that, no one else’s promise of love or rewards or validation or accolades compares quite as much. It becomes easier.
Rooted & Grounded in Love,