by Gwen Randall-Young
Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.
– Lao T
When we are young, we learn that if we please others we gain their approval. If we displease them, we feel unloved. Even an infant can feel a parent’s energy when they are annoyed about having to change yet another diaper. Human infants depend on adults to keep them alive, so instinctively they will feel stress if they feel rejected.
As we grow, we learn that getting the right answer in school feels good. The teacher seems pleased. We learn to try and figure out what the teacher wants to hear and respond accordingly. Even at university, students often try to align papers with the instructor’s views.
On some level, many come to equate the displeasure of another with a failure on their part. They have failed to be what another wants them to be. Here lies the crux of a major block to authenticity and personal evolution.
Sadly, I have seen students struggle with the pressure of wanting a different career path than the one their parents envision for them. Imagine the conflict for a bright, young compassionate person who yearns to be a teacher because of their love for children, but knows it would be a huge disappointment to their parents who want their child to be a lawyer. Think of someone who abandons their love of art because they are told, “You will never make a living doing that.”
The fear of displeasing can become much stronger than the desire to please. I have worked with many mature adults who are stressed out at being controlled by their parents’ or partner’s expectations. They learn it is not okay to be their true selves.
This carries over to other areas of life as well. It manifests as a fear of displeasing others, which turns the person into a pleaser. They become trapped in a life that is stressful and unsatisfying. They cannot say no and cannot stand up for themselves when being controlled due to an intense discomfort at the thought of any confrontation.
If you cook for others, but never feed yourself, you will starve. If we live our lives for others, always doing what they want, our soul begins to starve. We lose touch with our true nature. Many in their fifties and sixties have shared they do not even know who they are.
The path to healing begins with first acknowledging the things we are doing that we do not want to be doing. It is beginning to recognize when our heart is saying “no” while our mouth is saying “yes.” It is up to us to begin to develop clear boundaries and to listen to that inner voice that is not happy with the way we have been doing things. We can blame others for being controlling, but we must recognize we are allowing it.
Standing up for ourselves can be done in a non-confrontational way. Rather than focusing on the behaviour of another or accusing them of being controlling, we just learn to speak our truth. Our truth is what we want for ourselves, not what we think of others. Speaking our truth starts with the word, “I,” not “you.” For example, “I am going to take some time for myself” is a statement that says, “I am in charge of me and I am taking care of myself.” After all, if you don’t, who will?
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis CDs and “Creating Effective Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca ‘Like’ Gwen on Facebook for daily inspiration.