You Can’t Possibly Please Everyone

As a woman, I was raised in this culture to take care of others’ needs–often at the expense of my own.  I know a lot of women can relate to this.  The nature of females (or female energy) is naturally inclusive and holistic–we unconsciously want to nurture and include others.  This isn’t a “good” or “bad” thing, but when it detracts from your life instead of enhances it–it can be detrimental to your spirit. You can’t possibly please everyone.  You’ll go mad trying.

My childhood was traumatic, and part of the way I learned to survive was to give up many of my needs.  My needs weren’t important, it was conveyed, and if you asserted yourself, you were punished by emotional or physical abuse. It’s taken me a long time to recognize what my own needs are–and to separate them out from others’.  I am highly sensitive to others’ needs because of the childhood threat of violence.  Being sensitive to others’ needs is a nice trait to have, but it’s often come at my expense. After my brother died suddenly and I lost my beloved grandfather in the same year, I began to get back in touch with myself and what my needs are.  I began to realize that my needs were just as important as anyone else’s and although no one gets their needs met all the time (that’s called “indulgence”), it’s okay to ask for or to assert your needs.

You are important, you are valuable, you are enough.  Get in touch with what your needs are.  Don’t blame others if they don’t meet or exceed them–it’s up to you to assert yourself; they can’t read your mind.  If you’re unsure about what your needs are, Marshall Rosenberg has a list of needs on his website (he wrote a fantastic book called Nonviolent Communication).  He includes needs such as connection, honesty, meaning, autonomy, peace, play, and physical well-being.  By the way, this is great for couples–to have the ability to state what they need instead of blaming one another.  For example, saying, “Honey, could you stay home tonight instead of going out with the guys?  I miss you and want to spend some time with you.  We’re always so busy,” instead of “You’re going out with the guys again?  Hmph…You always do that.  You don’t love me…” and then pouting, withdrawing, crying, yelling, or whatever you do to get him to stay home with you.  The first sentence asks your husband/boyfriend to meet your need for connection in a way that doesn’t blame, shame, or try to manipulate him.

Here’s the thing:  You can’t possibly please everyone.  You’ll go crazy trying.  You’ll invalidate your worth as you try to be accommodating to everyone.

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.  ~Bill Cosby

The key is knowing yourself and your needs, and meeting others’ needs out of a sense of love, support, and connection. When your needs constantly fall short because you’re putting others’ ahead of yours on a regular basis, it’s time to reassess why you’re doing it and how you can begin to honor yourself.

needs met
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Another aspect of pleasing others is when you dishonor yourself by pretending to be someone you’re not.  You aren’t authentic.  You subjugate your need to be you in order to please others.  And you know deep down this isn’t healthy for you because you feel, underneath it all, a little “yicky.”  I spent a lot of my previous marriage trying to be someone I wasn’t because that’s what I thought my ex wanted.  I didn’t like myself very much, and my self-esteem suffered even more when I didn’t honor who I was.  For example, I am very spiritual.  My ex would make fun of some of the spiritual concepts I believe in–sometimes in the company of others.  I feel so much better now that I’ve learned to honor myself, my needs, and to be authentic.  It’s a much healthier way to live.  I have a need to have a partner who shares many of the same values with me and also honors my values even if they’re different–and vice versa.  My new husband and I are much better matched–especially because we are authentic with one another.

Authenticity is an important need for individuals.  When you meet others, do you find yourself changing a little bit, maybe so they’ll like you or accept you?  Check in with yourself–does it feel good when you do this?  Being authentic–so you don’t feel you need to change to please everyone–is a gift to your spirit.  This does not mean going around telling people what you feel about them in a campaign of “being honest with you.”  It means honoring yourself–and not putting others down so you can look/feel better (but that’s another post).

Not being able to please everyone also comes with a threat–if you don’t please someone, will they reject you or ostracize you?  Social isolation is punishing and is a real threat to many people.  Take it from me–all you need is one person in your life who believes in you, who supports and loves you for who you are.  It feels much better being authentic, than to change for this person, then change for that person in an attempt to “be enough” for each person you know.  One person thinks you’re a great mother; one person thinks you’re not.  One person thinks you’re not courageous enough; one person thinks you’re too assertive.  Well, which one is it?  How do you decide which one to be–or do you?  Boy, that would be exhausting trying to change all the time!  It’s better to just be yourself (and to know yourself) instead of spending time and energy being someone you’re not–that’s how I think cancer, diseases, or illnesses manifest.

*As a member of the SITS Girls, I was on their website a few days after I wrote this article and came across this article from a featured blogger:  7 Ways to Personalize Your Family Photos.  If you look at all the different photos of families (she is really talented!), you’ll see there are many different ways to pose for family pictures.  Some are casual, some are more formal; some people wear matching outfits, some don’t.  There is no “right” or “wrong” family photo–it is up to your taste and preference.  This is just another way to demonstrate that everyone is different.  You can’t please everyone, so honor yourself and your family, in this instance, by going by your preferences–not what you think the Joneses would want or your mother-in-law might want…this is your life.  You have a right to decide on what you need and want too.


2 thoughts on “You Can’t Possibly Please Everyone”

  1. This really rings true, Nicole. It can be so stressful when you’re trying to please everyone — and ignoring what is important to be true to yourself. There’s a balance of valuing yourself, recognizing your self worth, and being humble, flexible. It’s not bad to be proud of yourself, to be true to yourself — although the extreme (conceit) can be bad. Life is all about finding balance.

    P.S. Thanks for mentioning my blog post! I love your elaboration and how you tied it into this piece 🙂

    1. Nicole Nenninger

      Hi Betsy–thanks for stopping by! I think you hit on a key word–“balance.” Balancing your needs with others in a way that honors yourself. Some people want all their needs met–and get it–while some don’t get their needs met at all. In between is the “sweet spot” which is different for everyone (think of Mother Teresa).

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