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Blog: People Person or People Pleaser?

Updated: Mar 2

I am a mass of contradictions as a person. I love being around people, but am better getting into a topic of conversation one – on – one than in a massive group. Superficial conversation and flitting from group to group at a drinks reception, for example, is something that I find difficult. There is so much going on in the world and in all of our lives. What’s the point in exchanging phony pleasantries!?

Hating the idea that when asked ‘How are you?’ I am expected to respond with ‘fine thanks’ and

knowing that I’m supposed to talk about all the exciting trips I’ve taken and adventures I’ve been on, crucifies me. It’s as if we’re in competition to see who has the most awesome life… and others compete naturally and instinctively.

I go from wanting to dig into ‘meaningful’ conversation with one or two people, to loving the feeling when the door shuts behind me and I’m finally alone. And I need that. That space to breathe, even if I may have had too much of that during the pandemic.

In work situations I come across as confident and can lead groups of people. It’s like acting and, as much as I enjoy it, there is an emotional distance there, which enables me to do that.

Over the years, the line between coming across as a ‘people person’ and being a people pleaser, has become so blurred. I have straddled the boundary between the two with my all – so -persistent denial.

When I was younger, I was keener on parties and had a (sometimes real, sometimes fake) confidence about me, but caution started to slip in. (Eventually it took over.) But, although many appear outwardly bolder and braver in their earlier years, I actually think I became (and we can become) silently brave as I got older. It’s just that nobody saw it. As the fear developed, the struggle became real and it’s hard being in a world where you feel you have to ‘pretend’ everything is okay.

Music and dancing with friends was something I LOVED and I wish I was still able to dance freely

and without feeling self – conscious. Maybe this is something many lose to an extent, but as a cautious child (who would grip onto the sides at an ice rink) going out and dancing as a young adult, whether I looked silly or not, did (sometimes) feel awesome. Perhaps I’ve lifted it in my mind, needing to remember that, at times, alcohol helped, and that there was still self – loathing in me somewhere!

Being a people pleaser, there are times when I have to remind myself to take care of me. Loving peace and quiet is not something I should feel ashamed of and that unhealthy feeling of exhaustion after over – giving emotionally to someone hurts.

If I feel somebody doesn’t like or warm to me, I find that so difficult… and want to show them that ‘I’m nice’! It deeply hurts and upsets me, way more than, perhaps, it should.

Stephen Fry spoke in an interview once (he may have been quoting someone else, I have no idea!) on bears not being introspective and just being themselves! I love this.

(paraphrasing) A bear doesn’t say, yesterday I was a bad bear. He just gets on with being a bear.’

Often feeling like I’m too ‘in my own head’, I’m not always kind to myself. Negativity festers and breeds.

One of the things that I’m tough on myself about is the way my brain (cleverly) chose to cope and I punish myself mentally for having fragmented memories (which is natural). Hopefully if I can talk about the shame that I feel more, it will be exposed and shut down.. or, at least, I’ll feel more able to silence it. I can’t argue with science, so understanding why brains react in the way they do is also helpful and validating!

Perhaps, as survivors, the people we should try to please more is ourselves.

Image credit: Canva

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