The first thing that happens, if my experience is anything to go by, is that your need to conform doubles in intensity. It’s a kind of inner desperation, a need to know that you’re still actually liked. After all, you’re taking an enormous risk.
To be yourself – truly yourself – means making decisions, choices. Choices that shut people out; ones that others may not like. It means losing the protective veneer of same-ness and standing out from the crowd. Certain people won’t get you – they’ll find you puzzling; odd; a little strange. If you decide to come clean and stop hiding, some people won’t actually like who you are.
Scary stuff, especially as who you are is now really who you are. Which means they don’t just not like you, they don’t like YOU. Ouch.
My inner people pleaser can be a force to be reckoned with and I am certainly not alone. We’ve grown up with a ‘right way’ and a ‘wrong way’ to do things, a clear reward and punishment system that keeps us in line. The people-pleaser wants to know you’re getting it right so when you go out on a limb and get genuine, this little dude gets desperate. How are you going to please everyone now??
Time and again I’ve read that I should create a niche for my business, make a space where a specific group of people can recognise themselves, know immediately it is ‘specially for them. For a very long time I resisted. I mean, how can you restrict a vision to 19-24 year old Dairy Queen employees, or mid-life males with a penchant for cheese? I’m being glib, but that’s how it felt. I couldn’t choose like that. I didn’t want to miss out.
It doesn’t matter how many times you’re told the difference it will make, it’s still terrifying to choose a group, knowing you’re closing the door to hundreds of thousands of others.
The result, however, is that you’re missing out on everyone because nobody knows how to connect.
As I have had to remind myself over and again, when you try and please everyone, you lose the point of why you started in the first place. Your product gets diluted, your style weakened, the important message you wanted to share is reduced to generic mush that just anyone could write.
And that’s just work.
Chasing after approval goes so much farther than that, and the more personal it gets the more far-reaching the consequences of diluting yourself down.
We are addicted to statistics. It’s so cool to look at how many ‘friends’ you have, or followers, or jobs, or dollars in the bank. It’s easy that way to see where you stand, how important you are. The main problem with this is when you’re just starting out and your rankings are rather low. The result is either abject despair, feeling like a failure, or doing whatever it takes to get the numbers up: a slippery slope.
I absolutely love this quote, now proudly plastered over Finding Plenty’s social media homes. It says everything you need to know:
“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” Albert Camus
- Chasing after followers is not freedom. It’s dependence.
- Chasing after a quick buck, if it overrides your instincts, your values and your deepest desires is not freedom. It’s betrayal.
- Being something you’re not, to please others is NOT freedom. It’s a trap.
Doing these things is just as bad as being stuck in a soul-sucking 9-5, pouring every last cent you earn into an interest-only mortgage during a recession. It’s a dead end. Both eventualities result in the same outcome: your uniqueness, your energy, your gifts are lost to the world.
Let me say this again: you do not need statistics, or results, or friends, or money to tell you you’re important. You’re important already.
You lose: we all lose. I’m sure of that.
So what’s the alternative? Live your life as YOU want to live it, being so absolutely, totally, rebelliously you that there is no longer any way you can be ignored. Love yourself. Reduce your dependence on approval. Read this article by Jonathan Mead.
There is only one You. You being here makes the world a richer place. The internet is overflowing with generic, crowd-pleasing visual bubble gum – make your space yours. The world is full of unhappy, drained, stressed out crowd-followers trying desperately to stay on top of the game. Don’t join them – show them there’s another way to live.
You won’t be alone; I promise you this.
How does your inner people pleaser try to keep you in line? How does it restrict your life? What tactics have you found to keep the little dude at bay? Your thoughts in the comments please.