There is an abysmal difference between making sincere decisions and being a people-pleaser. What does sincere mean in this case? Aligned with our needs, values, priorities and purposes. What does being a people-pleaser mean? To act with the motivation to please others (still sacrificing our own well-being). However, although it seems obvious, this disparity does not manifest itself as something evident to our ego.
When a challenging situation arises, our primitive fear of rejection (which has its place in the amygdala, part of our primitive brain associated with survival) is activated and conditions us to respond in a condescendent way to the demands of others. This odd childish fear sometimes emerges with great intensity as a product of the latent fantasy that if we are rejected, we will die. This would be right in the case of a newborn baby, absolutely dependent on the care of an adult, but it is not realistic for a grown-up person.
So, if we will not die when we are rejected as adults , why are we so afraid then?
A fundamental inquiry that can help us look forward and with courage to this infantile tendency to consent to others is to ask ourselves what is the intention for doing what we do, what motivation precedes this way of behaving.
Ven. Thubten Chödrön invites us to a process of self-interrogation:
Who is important when we are being complacent? For the welfare of who we are really worrying?
Being sincerely kind (that is, acting from the motivation of wanting others to be happy) is not the same as presenting ourselves externally with a friendly facade, behaving in a charming way only to please others and avoid criticism at all costs.
The truth is that introducing ourselves as "good girls/boys" (pleasing people) in the eyes of others is a real fraud: the long-awaited consequent praise, as the ancient Indian sage Shantideva points out, does not result in inner peace, material wealth, in self-realization, neither accompanies us after death!
Seeking others to like us and to avoid having to deal with criticism by all means is an immature and exhausting mental habit that calls us to act many times in disagreement with our principles, resulting in mental agitation and provoking, therefore, that we Move in the opposite direction from the north to which we are headed from the depths of our hearts: true happiness.
Here are some questions that can guide us in the process of detecting this harmful habit:
When we go to that family / social meeting - or we prolong our stay in it more than necessary- in which the values that circulate are not related to ours, do we do it with the intention of being of benefit to others with our presence somehow or just to please the group and avoid having to go through the misfortune of being banished or judged for being different?
By being kind and courteous, do we act driven by a sincere interest in others' well-being or just to please them?
Certain everyday situations in which the "people-pleaser" is evident may be:
When we post a photo / phrase / experience on social media just to accumulate Likes and read compliments on comments (ie to be approved and praised).
When we are terrified to say "no" knowing that with consenting we are transgressing our ethics.
When we give in to the whims of another who stands in the way of our priorities for fear of having to deal with their annoyance, and we remain rumbling resentment within.
When we procrastinate what is important to please: that does taste sour indeed!
When we agree to be part of rituals, activities and even lifestyles that are in disharmony with our values only out of fear of exclusion, condemning ourselves to live in communion with the bitter taste of self-betrayal.
When we negotiate the non-negotiable: our values, principles and our vital purpose only to avoid the discomfort of confrontation with the unmet expectations of the other, the family mandate, the social mandate -and in some cases even reproach, condemnation, indifference and mockery-.
What is the benefit of working to transcend complacency?
Transforming the fearful energy invested into being a compulsive people pleaser in a courageous and sincere motivation to act from the alignment with our values and the desire that our actions are of greater benefit for all in the long run, is a surefire way to reach a deep sense of integrity and loyalty to our Purpose.
Sometimes it may be that we get less Likes on Facebook, but we will dawn and dusk resting in the serene smile of being faithful to ourselves.