Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Out of step by Liz Flaherty #WindowOvertheSink

I'm a pleaser. I never, ever want to be the catalyst for anyone being unhappy or uncomfortable or sad. I never want to be rude (although I accomplish it fairly often--sorry!) If there is an odd number and you need an even one, I'll always be the one to opt out and go watch TV even though I hate TV. I suffer tremendous guilt over hurting someone's feelings even if--wait for it--I didn't do anything. And, no, it's not always a good thing to be.

Because pleasers get hurt way too easily. They take everything personally. They dwell on things until they drive not only themselves crazy but everyone around them, too. They can be decisive but usually aren't because, after all, what if their decision affects someone else in a negative way? They are forgiving, sometimes to the point of thinking they're probably imagining the insult they're forgiving. They can literally believe they need to be forgiven for taking something wrong.

They always say, "I don't care. Where would you like to go?" or "Where would you like to eat?" or "Whatever you want to watch." When they do make a choice, they worry incessantly that it is the wrong one. Not for themselves--they truly don't care--but for everyone else.

A pleaser will remember that in the third grade, she hurt someone's feelings for no good reason other than that she was eight years old. She will regret it for the rest of her life, even after she's apologized to the person who doesn't even remember the incident.

Pleasers can't say No. Even when they should. Even when they intend to. Even when the approval they want--and yes, we do want it, much as I hate to admit it--isn't forthcoming, they say Yes all the time because the truth of that particular matter is, they want to. They want to help, to experience, to always, always be one of the Good Guys. They want to be liked, even by people they aren't that fond of. (This whole paragraph makes me wish I knew more about psychology than I do.)

They are confused by rancor, by lies that are hurtful to people, that empathy and niceness and tolerance are seen as bad things. They don't understand bullying but don't always recognize it, either--what if someone just took it wrong? They never see situations in black-and-white--there are always shades of gray in there.

Chances are good that if you're a pleaser, you're not much of a leader. You're probably more of a follower, somewhere near the back, not quite keeping up. That's part of the problem, too, when there is a problem. Pleasers hate conflict, yet they never really fit into either side of an altercation, either, so they're constantly out of step.

I think a lot about changing myself. Everyone does, don't they? The political climate has made being a pleaser even more painful than it might be otherwise. But it's also made me realize a few things. 

There's nothing wrong with being a pleaser. It doesn't mean you're weak, or not intelligent, or in any way pathetic. It doesn't mean you can't stand your ground if you need to or that your opinion is less important than anyone else's. A pleaser isn't necessarily a doormat. As far as not being a leader--I'm pretty sure I'll get some disagreement on this one--a good follower is just as important as a good leader. 

So maybe I won't change that about myself. Even if I could, I'm not so sure I'd want to. I'm glad and grateful for those who aren't pleasers--they accomplish things that people like me never will. But I think I'm happy to be in the back and out of step. All that really means is that you're dancing to your own tune--played quietly so that it doesn't bother anybody. 


  1. I am becoming more of a pleaser the older I become....at some point, fighting for your opinion or stance on something just isn't as important.

  2. You definitely get to where choosing your battles is a priority!

  3. Since I've been called a leader by most, in my own mind I am a pleaser. I want everyone to be happy and have fun, but sometimes it takes a leader to get them there. I don't think pleasers are followers all the time. Some followers seem to want to do nothing but follow because it's less work than pleasing the leader or because they aren't confident. You used the words "never" & "always" quite a lot. My husband taught me that those are black & white when we all know nearly everything is gray depending on the person. I really love reading your stuff! It makes me think, continue to know you better & makes me smile - thanks!

    1. Never and always have to do with context. I'm with Alan on most things being shades of gray. There are certainly as many "bad" followers as there are "bad" leaders, but there's nothing wrong with being one or the other; they're both necessary. Thanks, Debby!

  4. Oh, you could have been describing me. I identify with everything you mention, although I have gotten better at saying no, in an apologetic, excuse-filled way anyhow.

    1. Well, yes, me, too...although I usually said, If you can't find anyone else... :-) Thanks, Beth.