They say there’s a people pleaser in all of us.
And it was two days after I turned 40 towards the end of 2016, I discovered I truly am a People Pleaser.
I am also a woman.
This would not normally be a relevant fact except a disproportionate numbers of people pleasers are women. This is not to suggest men aren’t people pleasers too and this article (or blog for that matter) is not about minimising men’s feelings in any way, shape or form. However, girls are typically trained from a young age to accommodate and defer to others so it’s not really a surprise to discover more women tend to be the people pleaser than a man.
Now, let me tell you about the time I discovered I am indeed a People Pleaser.
I’ve often suspected it for a long time and it took an event over the course of my 40th birthday celebrations to confirm I am a people pleaser.
I’ve been friends with a group of seven girls since high school. We don’t often buy each other birthday presents but seeing as we were all turning 40, we decided to pitch in and buy each other one big group present.
That was fine until the day I received a text message from one of these “friends.” This “friend” was responsible for buying my present. I had wanted an Amazon kindle for a while so I suggested they get me an Amazon voucher.
We were all due to go away for the weekend to celebrate so I wouldn’t see my friends or get my present until the girls weekend. A few days after my actual birthday, I received the following text message:
At first, I think I was in shock….and confused.
Did I just read I was being asked to pay $100 to contribute to my own birthday present due to her fuck up?
I couldn’t believe it!
My 40th birthday had started well…then this bought me right back down to earth.
I don’t know why, I responded pretty much straight away with this:
I could almost scold myself now for responding the way I did. And even though I was massively pissed off inside, I had this overwhelming desire to remain friendly.
The fact I’m writing about this almost six months after my birthday is testament to the fact, this did and still affects me.
The “friend” who wrote me this didn’t need the money. Out of the entire group, she’s probably the one with the most money and the most “set-up” of the lot of us. I mean for fuck sake, her and her husband got a brand new house built for them for free when their last home went up in smoke in the Black Friday bushfires.
I work part-time, earning a measly wage from a not-for-profit organisation, trying to build a business and reinvent myself at a later stage in life. I even had to move back in with my parents to make ends meet.
To some of you reading this, you might be thinking, what’s the big fucking deal, just pay the money?!
As I later reflected, it wasn’t about the money at all – it was the act of what I establish is her selfish nature and the value she places on friendship.
If it were me that fucked up and paid the wrong currency, I would have taken responsibility for my own mistake and paid it. Or ask the rest of the group to pitch in to cover the amount.
It would have sucked, but it’s what I would have done (because, hey I’m a people pleaser). I would never in a million years ask a friend, who was celebrating her milestone birthday, expect to pay towards her own present due to something I did in error. This is what happened to me because she didn’t own her mistake. She passed her mistake onto me as if it were my fault.
This one act has given me an entirely new perspective on what the word friendship means and her character.
You see, this person took what I consider to be a very short-sighted and tactical approach to the friendship. When she made the mistake, she immediately thought of herself and her own needs. In her mind, she believed I was to gain something far more than I should have and so I should pay for this.
But she made the mistake – not me.
I deliberately kept her waiting on the payment and as it was getting closer to Christmas, with a lot of bills piling up in December (who arranges car insurance so close to Christmas? Me), money was scarce. Until one day, I received another text message from her politely reminding me to pay her the money.
This time, I did think about responding to let her know I was disappointed in her. Instead, I simply ignored her message and transferred the money to her bank account. I made sure the description on the bank transaction said: ‘Money for my own b’day present.’
And before you ask, no I have never confronted her about this, because ding, ding, ding, people pleasers hate confrontation.
There’s about four of them turning 40 in the next couple of months including this person. No doubt, I will be asked to contribute to her gift. I will do so … reluctantly … because she did put in the standard amount into mine. Her action that day has really changed the dynamics of my friendship not just with her, the entire group too.
This experience has also made me realise my passive-aggressive tendencies, which is something I want and need to work on (I’m hoping this blog will help) and that’s a topic for another day.
Are you a people pleaser too?
Are you someone who always puts other people’s feelings above your own or do you make the pursuit of other people’s happiness your main aim in life? Now you’ve heard my story, are you willing to be vulnerable today and share your story or experience of being a people pleaser? Please take a moment to share your experiences in the comments below.