People Pleasing: Can This Really Be Happening?

Once a People Pleaser, Always a People Pleaser

Yelow circular meme on top of pink background saying, Can't please 'em all. So please stop trying.
Stop trying to please everyone.

Some events happen in your life that seem so bizarre you assume anything resembling them will never happen again. Some people win the lottery more than once and others get struck by lightning several times. A story about being a people pleaser isn't as interesting as winning money or surviving a lightning strike. Regardless, I was shocked when it happened to me again forty years later.

When I was in grade school my parents would take yearly ski vacations. After three days of skiing, my ankles would get sore from being squished into ski boots while wearing four pairs of socks. In those days we didn't have the space-age fabrics we have now. What we lacked in science we made up for in raw material. When I wasn't in the mood to ski I was forced to hang out at the "ski lodge" which should have been uneventful. Even if I didn't like the lodge, being the people pleaser that I am I wouldn't have said anything. While entertaining myself at the ski lodge it was inevitable that a girl my age who also didn't want to ski would somehow find me. She would then stand several feet from my face and ask me bluntly, "Can I be your friend?" What kind of sick, twisted chick does this to another girl? There are scarier questions to be asked from strangers such as, "Do you know your hair's on fire?" or "Are you aware you're not wearing any pants?" Still, her question shook me to the core. I didn't know who this person was and anyone who chooses to have me as has questionable taste. Feeling trapped with no parents to save me or kind strangers to warn me about child strangers, I would agree to be Jane Doe's friend. This meant as a result of being a people pleaser I would spend the next six hours with the world's most boring, but "ballsy" child.

Pamela Lewis of Ttopical Depression stands in a wooded backyard with her mom.
Not quite a ski lodge, but Pamela Lewis of Tropical Depression wearnig a sweaterw with her mom.

Several months ago at Grand Central Station in New York, a moment occurred that I would have never thought possible. I might have been in the world's largest train station in summer, but in my mind, there was snow everywhere and I was under a large sign that read, Ski Lodge. Getting a ticket while necessary for my journey always took a back seat to the eating I was soon going to do. Cheesecake, Knishes, Marble Cookies, and Pizza were the train station's main attraction to me. Because I hadn't been on the East Coast in ten years, my appetite for these foods was beginning to overwhelm me. The food train conveniently arrives anytime I'm at Grand Central and only departs when I do. While waiting on line to purchase my ticket, a woman asks if I will be traveling to Connecticut, to which I replied yes. She looked nervous so being the people pleaser that I am, I asked where she was going and told her to tell the ticket taker where she needed to go. She said something under her breath which sounded slightly familiar, but I ignored her. She then repeated herself, "I will stay with you because I'm going there too." What? A shit-ton of people are going there hence the name Grand Central Station.

Red and white nametag that says, "Hello my name is PeoplePleaser."
My name is...

My knees shaking and my head spinning I scanned the station for an escape route. Realizing that my only get-away involved speaking to this stranger, I began to ready myself. What would you say if a stranger alerts you that the next five hours will be spent with them? Keep in mind, this person is extremely nice and possibly scared. I wasn't about to people please this stranger. The only thing worse than a people pleaser could be a stranger pleaser. Perplexed I yelled, "No. No. No, not happening again. I can't stay with you while you watch me eat." For me, it's like having a stranger watch me as I quickly fall in love with a slice of pizza. I continued, "I won't do it, I'm sorry I just can't. I need to please myself!" Did I just yell while in one of the largest commuter hubs in the world, that I needed to please myself now? Once over that typical move on my part, I was so proud of myself for not letting this stranger tell me what to do. It was validation that my years in therapy might not have been a waste. Unfortunately, this poor woman likely did not feel identical to me. She probably thought the misnomer of New York people being rude was an understatement.

Maybe when speaking up for yourself is long overdue, the chance of doing it normally is out of the question until you get used to it. People pleasers have a hard time accepting that the person we are "pleasing" won't be ok unless we comply with their request. Do you think for a second that that woman didn't get to her destination because of me? I'm pretty sure she did to another person what she did to me, but made a wiser choice. If I don't spend my time doing what I want or need to do, what is the point of living? Strangers will get through being said "no" to just as lame-ass friends will. Let them.

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