Some time in the 90s, I read a book called “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” by Susan Jeffers. I’ve been meaning to go back and re-read it, because I found it very enlightening at the time, but now I don’t remember much of what it said. I do, however, remember her talking about how very much of what we do is motivated by our desire for people to like us.
I think that “people pleasing” falls somewhere on a spectrum between “I don’t care what you think,” and “I will just die if you don’t agree with me.” I’ve spent most of the past 40 years on somewhere on the latter end of the scale.
I’m my own worst critic. To be honest, when I receive a friend request, or when someone says something really nice about me on my facebook wall, I still sometimes wonder if they made a mistake. As a result, I don’t let too many people know too much about what I consider to be the “real” me.
I’m really shy. People don’t believe me, because I can talk to anyone. Talking is not the hard part – reaching out is the kicker. As a result, I don’t go many places or do much of anything, because I wait to be invited to do something by someone else. Last week I took a step outside of my comfort zone. I emailed two people who I knew primarily through my involvement in an organization that I recently left. I invited them to have lunch or coffee with me because I liked both of them a lot and I’ve been feeling kind of socially isolated without my club meetings to attend. One accepted and one did not.
I had a lovely lunch with the one who accepted. I shared some things about me that she didn’t know before, and I learned some things about her, too. I hope she had as fantastic a time as I did, but I have to admit that I’ve spent more than one anxious moment wondering if she’ll still like me now that she knows some of the private me instead of just the public me.
I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering,
Will they still like me if they know I’ve been divorced?
What will they think if they know that I suffer from anxiety?
Will they think I’m weak if I say I just can’t do it?
If I post this, will they think I’m just looking for attention?
This list could go on and on.
I’m on a journey to wellness which involves losing a very substantial amount of weight. For years, I cropped my profile pictures so that people couldn’t see the “fat parts.” When “friends” from other social media platforms found me on Facebook, where I had full-length pictures posted, several told me they had no idea I was a heavy person.
I’ve put off meeting people who played an important role in my life because I was afraid of how they would perceive me if they knew how fat I was. I’ve agonized over wardrobe choices because I was afraid of wearing the wrong thing. I had two full-blown anxiety attacks trying to get myself into the gym this spring to finally do something about my weight because I was afraid of what people would think of my king-sized self and potentially say something unkind (or think something unkind, look at me sideways, etc.)
I’ve censored my opinions on many timely issues on social media because I have friends on both side of the fence.
If I tell you how I feel about “X,” you may not be my friend.
I’m no longer as driven by the little voice that tells me I’m not good enough. When it makes an appearance I remind myself that a friendship based on a character I decide to play isn’t really a friendship. I haven’t been giving people enough credit. Worse than that, I haven’t been giving myself enough credit, either. I’m pretty cool. I really am worth getting to know a little better.