I hear often that when people are on their death beds, their biggest regret is that they didn’t do the things that they wanted to do. Be it a business they never started, an adventure they never completed or a relationship they never healed. I’ve always wanted to live a life with
no minimal regrets, and I really try to stay cautious of casually dropping different goals I’ve had in the past, which can be easy when you’re in a comfortable place in life, but in 2020, one thing I came to realise about myself is that I was a chronic people pleaser.
People please: A person who has an emotional need to please others often at the expense of his or her own needs or desires
“People pleasing”… in the past, if given two options, I’d often choose the option which meant that the decision I’d make would spark either the least behind-back chatter, or would mean that the uncomfortable conversations I might have had to have were minimal or non-existent. It could be as simple as in my 20s still feeling scared about getting a second piercing I’ve wanted for years, for fear my parents would disapprove. Or when I was younger, dismissing getting to know certain prospective partners if I knew it could raise some eyebrows (note: this never really impacted my life greatly and I’m in a happy 6yr relationship).
Even though I moved out of my home for university 7 years ago and never moved back, and have not lived off anyone’s money but my own for 4 of those 7 years, I still couldn’t boldly make some potentially controversial choices. I would still fear making certain choices could upset somebody else – even if I personally felt that I’d done nothing wrong. I just don’t want the headache.
Being a chronic people-pleaser has never really reared a dark head into my life so often in the past as I wasn’t really doing much. When I was younger, the only people that expected anything from me were my parents; and when you’re young, you do what you’re allowed to get away with whilst you’re living under your parents’ roof. If your parents are strict, you probably move along with life trying pull things together such that you don’t get shouted at when you get back home. Then you go to university and you get your first taste of real freedom, the only thing you need to do to keep your parents from having a heart attack is make sure your exam slip has a 2:1 or 1st on it at the end, and that after you throw your graduation cap in the air, the next thing around the corner is a job.
But then university ends, you start to fend entirely for yourself, and you realise that you really can do whatever you want. The older you get, the more serious your choices get, and the more people your choices may either impact or interest – yet if you’re living alone, an adult, and making your own money… well nobody can really tell you what to do anymore.
What if you come from a family that doesn’t appreciate interracial relationships (and this doesn’t necessarily have to be your parents), but you’ve found a partner from a different culture that you’ve totally clicked with, how do you navigate that?
You’ve decided it’s time to get a tattoo or piercing – this will break the heart of your traditional family. Do you tell them?
You want to move across the world and spend time travelling, maybe working some bar jobs along the way… who needs to be tied down into a stressful job already when we have the next 50 years for that. How do you tell those around you when fearing disapprovals?
You’re ready to move on from your job to something new, but your team is totally overwhelmed at work and you don’t want them to hate you – that must pull at your heart strings a bit?
You want to move in with your partner, but you’re not married and in your culture that latter comes before the former… so what next?
You decide you don’t want to go into a 9-5 job, you’d rather work on your own business from scratch, which means you won’t have a stable income. How would your parents who emphasised education? What if you have a partner – would they support you?
Disclaimer: the situations above don’t necessarily pertain to me, but they are a few examples of how choices start to get more complex as we get older vs. when we were younger and just trying to survive school dramas. It’s easy to spend so much time thinking about how others will react to your decisions – because who really wants to go around fighting and arguing with everyone to be able to do justify why they feel that they are making the right choice?
In 2020 – I stripped back a layer of being a people pleaser, and started to internalise the term “we only live once” a bit more. Living for me – it means that if I’m not hurting anyone, then quite frankly, I am going to do what I want. Not to say I’m going to go wild, tattoo my face, quit my job and move to Thailand, – what I want to do needs to be more at the forefront when I’m making my decisions vs. what others want me to do.
The truth is, the people you are trying to please probably also lived (or live) their life however they felt was right when they were faced with different choices or in a similar position to you. You’d be surprised at how much people often omit things from their past. You can take advice – and its important to – but who wants to get to age 90 to realise they’d only lived a life that was mapped out by other people?
If you’re reading this and you’re younger / in your teens – maybe now isn’t the best time to start taking this advice. You may not be mature enough to make your own serious choices. But if you’re older and you are independent – then remember that sometimes you need to live selfishly to live happily! I felt a lot happier once I decided that I was going to start living for me.
Have a good week!