For the longest time in my life, I was a people pleaser.
I wanted to get along with everyone, always be nice to everybody, not to have any issues with anyone.
The first step out of this role was coloring my hair blue/green last year. Many people felt affronted by it; I got to hear negative comments made by people close to me and got weird stares from strangers. It was okay, eventually I got used to it and learnt to care less about what people think of what I do, my actions.
However, I still cared about how they thought of me as a person. I have a certain image of myself; I think that I’m friendly, sincere, loyal and braver than the average person when it comes to confronting my fears and leaving my comfort zone. Of course I’m not perfect, I know I have my weaknesses and they’re not just minor ones, but it bothered me when someone doesn’t see my strengths in me.
But recently, I’ve run into some issues. And I’m done trying to get along with everyone.
First, the boy I used to tutor who adored me (he even turned back the clock more than once to make me stay longer!) suddenly doesn’t want me to come anymore and I’m not notified, his parents just stop contacting me. They used to be very nice to me so I have no idea where that comes from.
Then, ironically after writing this post in which I was musing about becoming more likable/popular, I realise that someone I considered a friend had decided to quit our friendship without telling me her reasons. We’ve hardly communicated since last year, but I thought she was one of the friends you can meet after a long time and everything’s still the same. Our friendship used to be like that. So even though in retrospect some signs were there, it comes out of nowhere and leaves me hurt, wondering what the hell is wrong with me that someone decides to erase my existence out of her life. I know I shouldn’t care, that people who stick with me deserve my attention instead, but I couldn’t stop thinking of it the whole day when I learnt about it.
A last situation. I went to a photo excursion with some friends. We went to a photo studio because the weather sucked. I was looking forward to trying something new since I’m an outdoor photographer. However, the studio reminded me of a bunker; if you’ve read this post on why I create, you can imagine that my creativity died once I stepped into the room. I felt extremely uncomfortable, locked away from the natural light that nurtures my desire to create. But it was okay for me not to take photos for once; I brought all the people together and enjoyed just being there with them and helping out when I could.
On our way back, I realised that some people wanted to force me to my luck and thought that I should have stepped out of my comfort zone and at least tried to create something. Honestly, I don’t want to be taught about leaving your comfort zone by anyone who does it less often than me. I know they had no bad intentions, but I felt very uncomfortable having to justify why I didn’t feel like creating. I felt like they thought I was someone who’d rather shy away from a challenge than to accept and embrace it.
I wanted to clarify the situation because it really bothered me that people thought that I preferred to stay in my comfort zone. I fretted about that all evening, wondering how I can put my thoughts into words that make them understand me – instead of using my energy for something more productive. But then I realised with a sobering clarity that I had to let it go. We’ll never be able to control what people think of us and trying to do it will wear us down.
I’m not sure if it’s just a bad phase or if my once smooth and adaptive (aka weak and underdeveloped) personality has developed some rugged corners, consolidating itself. So many things have changed in the last couple of months; I finally see my path ahead of me and I’m very determined, not willing to get distracted or hindered. I’m open to criticism, criticism is important, but I don’t take it from everyone.
I’ve always known that we shouldn’t care about what others think of us, but now I’ve finally really learnt the lesson, truly incorporated it. I don’t give a shit anymore. I’m done being a people pleaser. Whatever you do, whoever you are, people will always have something to criticise about you, dislike you for who you are. So if you can’t please everybody anyways, just do your own thing. You’ll learn who’s on your side, the right people will always support you. The others don’t matter.
What about you, dear reader? Have you already – truly – learnt this lesson? If you have, how? Or are you still trying to please everybody, neglecting yourself?
Photo: Self-portrait, taken while listening to Sia’s House On Fire | June 2016