Updated: Jan 2
Once a People Pleaser, Always a People Pleaser
Some events happen in your life that seems 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. What recently happened to me 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 about 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 soul 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 in their group 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.
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 leave. While waiting on line to purchase my ticket, a woman asks if I will be traveling by train 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.
I weighed the consequences and I would never forgive myself if I allowed this stranger to usurp my time. It would mean thousands of dollars spent and tears shed in therapy would be a waste. At 52-years-old I needed to dump my people-pleasing ways and learn it's ok to disappoint someone. As I'm trying to figure out what to say to this woman, images of bagels, cheesecakes, and pizza vie for space in my head. I begin to consider if I could enjoy myself and eat while this stranger sits next to me. As a single, approaching old-as-dirt woman, food is my one true love. I don't want anyone around watching me make love to it. I must eat alone and I don't need an audience, but thanks. I was so adamant to avoid anything that resembled a friendship that I wasn't able to politely and honestly say something to get me off the hook. Maybe something like, "I'm so sorry, but I can't hang out with you because I'm wanted in four states for murder so it's best if you stay clear of me. Maybe even "I would love to walk around Grand Central Station with you, but I have some screws that I need to drill into my head." Instead, like the psycho I am, I screamed, "No! No more! No more people-pleasing! You will not force me to befriend you. It won't happen again I tell you!" While looking like a fugitive for somewhere to run I continued to yell and shake my head. "I will not be friends with you and I don't want you to shadow me while I'm eating. I need to be in peace.'' I recall this day with a small sense of accomplishment by refusing to let another uncomfortable moment in my long history of uncomfortable moments take place. Unfortunately, this sweet woman likely remembers this day as the one where she was publically humiliated when she asked a stranger for a helping hand.
If I would have learned to put myself first as opposed to worrying what strangers think, maybe I wouldn't be a people pleaser afraid of being alone. In my family, it was considered rude to ask for what you want or need. I'm not suggesting my life would have been better if I was completely self-centered. I do believe is there's a middle ground between doing activities so I don't appear disagreeable and being a supportive friend. Being honest with your feelings as a young child is now encouraged by professionals. If your child tells you that there is an adult that makes them uncomfortable, that child has every right to not engage with that person.
How did I go from cheesecake to incest? No clue, but if you liked this article please like, share, and comment.