Do you do that thing where you put other people’s needs ahead of your own?
Do you sometimes think you’re responsible for other people’s feelings?
I do. I mean did. I mean, I still do but not as much.
And I get it. Human beings are social creatures. We’re hard wired to care what others think. It’s a survival mechanism. Get yourself kicked out of the cave for scribbling over someones drawings or “borrowing” your cousins saber-tooth necklace and you’re good as dead.
Humans need to work together to provide food and shelter and raise families.
Kindness, compassion and understanding are wonderful traits.
But our instinct to care what others think can become distorted. We can become hyper vigilant and take it too far.
Other people’s feelings.
I grew up thinking it was my job to make sure other people were okay. That no one felt left out.
I’d watch my brother and sister and if I saw something I thought would upset my mother I’d try and compensate. I’d do more dishes. Be more “sensitive.”
My sister used to call me “mother like.”
Me (left) and Jane (click to see Jane’s gorgeous textile art!)
Don’t get me wrong I did plenty of things to upset my parents, it’s just sometimes, about some things, I was hyper aware. I also went through a bitchy spell—age 12 to 13 was my worst—and I was possibly trying to make up for it.
Whatever the reason, I fussed when I thought someone might get upset.
And I struggled to say what I wanted.
You know in Runaway Bride where Julia Roberts doesn’t know what kind of eggs she likes because she always goes with however her fiance at the time eats them? I was like that, except I knew what I liked I just felt safer saying what I thought people wanted to hear.
Put on your own freaking mask!
It’s easy to convince ourself that taking on the mantle of a feelings-look-er-after makes you a “good person.” But it says more about our own insecurity.
And it’s arrogant.
You’re not responsible for how other people feel. They’re perfectly able to do that on their own.
And like they say in the in-flight safety guide—take care of yourself first.
People just want you to be you!
PS: Do you do this too?? Anyone? Anyone?
Know exactly what you mean. This is what they call the people pleaser, at the extreme martyr. You want everyone around you happy and make yourself unhappy and at the extreme miserable in the process by sacrificing your OWN needs and desires. Have many examples, but questions to ask yourself are, does this make ME happy? Does this bring ME joy? Doing for others can be counterproductive. Not that AT TIMES you help or make a sacrifice. Putting yourself FIRST is not selfish which we think it is, it is putting yourself in a healthy position to help others, not a weak, insecure, unhealthy one. Very hard. Think this comes from childhood patterns of making parents happy, then we take these patterns of relating throughout our lives. So HARD to break but asking yourself these above questions help a lot. You are right in all your statements. Thanks for the reminder. Think many of us need it frequently. Also heard somewhere, Do you ask yourself daily, what would make YOU happy today? Love and Light and Joy Always!
Exactly! I think you’re right about it coming from trying to make parents happy. And like you said, not selfish at all. Thanks so much for your note:))
I am that kind Lisa..but i hae been so different!..smiling , happy
Than things turn in my life…I grew up in a kind of not so happy family-
a very dominant father which has always controled my life and my sister
she gotmarry with a worser personality of men, in germany
and because they have sustained me financila on my country-payng the
rent of a small appartament which I had to live afterwards..
than they invited me to live by them and since than I am living
in a nightmare….I now start to find solutions to go out of here ..finally!
Just because always lack of money has been my problem and here
I have been on their territory has been worser than I could ever imagine-
an unhealty life style and disarmony..
That sounds like a challenging situation, good to hear you’ve found a solution. Hope you find peace soon. And thanks so much for reading my blog and saying hi!! Thinking of you. XOX
A couple of thoughts that came to me…. I realized the arrogance of thinking I can control others and the world by constantly evaluating others thoughts and feelings (from my own filter-may not be accurate) and deciding what is best for them. It speaks of so many ego things-insecurity, control issues, anxiety -all in the trick of the mind that poses as love and concern.
Also, about being yourself, I love the poem by Derek Walcott, Love After Love, that speaks to coming back to yourself in such a elegant way.
The idea of arrogance is sobering isn’t it. And like you say, thinking we’re helping is such a trick of the mind!
PS: I haven’t read that poem, but my ears pricked up at the name Derek Walcott as he’s a favorite of my husband but I’ve yet to read any of his work. Actually Franco wrote music for and performed in a poetical theater production that Derek produced and took to his theater workshop in Trinidad, WI. I shall check it out!
I am so glad I read your post and looked up Derek Walcott, Love After Love. What a beautiful poem! I intend to investigate (him) more.
Never thought about this behavior being “insecure” AND “arrogant”…just insecure. I get it but, never thought of it that way. That was like a fist to the jaw. BIFF-POW, wake up!
I know what you mean, it’s a helpful idea isn’t it!!
“Helpful idea”, hmmm…I have been trying to digest this statement. To me reading “arrogant” actually made me feel bad. The fact that why I do what I do for others is because I think I can do it better didn’t really come into play until I read your story.
Honestly, I do what I do for others because it makes me feel good to help…so I guess it would be more selfish than arrogant of me to help as I do. The intention IS to help but somehow (if successful) I end up “helped” in the end.
And to be liked (if I am completely honest) that is where my insecurity comes in to play.
I could perhaps have done myself a favor and explained my ideas around this a little bit more. When I was talking about it being arrogant, I was referring to my tendency to go way over the top and to fuss about people and really worry about how they were feeling way beyond being thoughtful or kind, and it was done with a sense that they needed me to. I got really twisted up by it for a long time. I felt like I had to keep the world happy, or at least the world around me, happy. Like it was my job.
As was mentioned in one of the other comments, without kindness, empathy and understanding for others we become self absorbed and narcissistic. And I completely agree. Being generous and kind, and trying to understand things from others people’s point of view as much as we can is what life’s all about!
Always a pleasure to hear from you. Your kind and generous spirit is felt, and much appreciated in the Esile household:)) XXL
Actually Lisa, I believe in the idea that everything happens for a reason, and I needed to read this. I needed to hear someone explain it this way. I thank you (once again) for sharing your life lessons with us.
It’s my pleasure:)
Yes I’ve definitely been guilty of this! I’m learning to watch my motives which I’ve noticed can be self serving ie. I want to please people in the hope that they’ll like me. I found this realisation quite freeing. As you say, it’s more about our own insecurity. Also I’ve just read an article implying that the current “cult” of self love is creating a rise in the number of people with a narcissistic personality. I love that your blog teaches that healthy self love comes from knowing we are ok and others are too and we don’t need to prove ourselves to anyone.
It’s easy to do isn’t it! Having a awareness was such a big help—but I still do it all the time! Argh.
What an interesting article about the current cult of self love. I hadn’t heard that said before in the media. Franco and I have noticed it’s something that seems to be creeping in. So important to know that it’s not all about us, I’m pleased that you think my blog touches down on an okay side of that.
Nice to “see” you!
Love your wisdom and writing style. Thank you. And I’ve always been the type taking care of others. Wanting to be liked. It’s exhausting and usually ends up with the other person pissy with me.
Hi Joan! I know what you mean about them being pissy with you, I find too. Sometimes I want to slap myself for being so wishy washy:)
Laughed so hard at your illustrations .. love how you effectively mix necessary humor with pragmatic advice and wisdom. TY for being you and sharing with all of us out here doing our best to be better humans. Be well, be YOU!
Much peace and love,
Thanks Jann! My pleasure:))
GREAT post! I think we must be co-queens of worrying about what others think. ; )
In fact, before I read this, I was just saying to my Mom earlier today that I worry too much about what others think. What an energy sapper and dead end that is!!!
So yes, I’m getting better at not worrying what others think, but WOW, it’s hard to change that station / wiring!
Thanks for this great post and heck, let’s be queens of something else, shall we!? ; )
Well, actually, it’s probably me who still needs to work on not worrying what others think since you seem to have passed that baton already! So I’m gonna focus on not worrying about what you’re thinking about my post, LOL! ; )
Nope – “we can both be queens of something else”. I’m still crap at doing it. Way better than when I was younger and didn’t even realize, so I’m taking that as a win! I found moving to the US helped me too. The English culture, which I grew up with in NZ, is built on uber politeness and “thinking of others,” – it doesn’t seem to be quite so bad here, so it’s helpful. But then again, I also notice that people get more annoyed at me here. Ha ha. (And I totally know what you mean about worrying what I might be thinking of your comment. I don’t know if you were serious, but I do that all the time when I want to comment on a blog or social media. Sometimes so much I don’t write anything! Oy!). Thanks for saying hi!
Hi Lisa: Nice post! I was really bad at this growing up but I am happy to report I am much better now. I do find sometimes I have to remind myself that I am fine just as I am and most likely the people I am trying to please are not really that interested in me anyway…lol….enjoyed reading your reminder! Thanks…..
Hi Sandy! Nice to hear from you:) That is such a good point about people not really being that interested in us anyway! Very liberating!! And true!
I got that email at the most perfect time. Thank you for sharing this. I needed to be reminded of it. However, i still found myself to be caring of others feelings byt its nit like put them first. I find mysekf naturally doing that. Its so stuck with me i cannot tell bif uts who i am or i have a problem. Im so caring. It doesn’t annoy me but uts frustrating sometimes. But i don’t like to have nothing to do and i find myself always busy caring about people when ee are gathered.
Hi Rahif, Good to hear about the favorable timing! Kindness and caring is a wonderful thing of course:) Thanks for saying hi!! L
I love your blog helpful and insightful . Sometimes I try to help as a peace maker in conflicts that is being boosted by others throwing words and playing the devils advocate I usually try to encourage peace and harmony and end up being accused of being pushy and too nosy.I sometimes wonder if they are right and I come off as Mother Theresa trying to fix the world. Do you think something is wrong with my actions.
I’m not sure I’d ever go as far to say there’s anything wrong with your actions, you’re just doing what you feel compelled to do. And it’s hard to tell what’s really happening from the short description, but one thought that occurs to me is, what is your intention when you speak up? Is it because you feel uncomfortable at the discord around you? If yes, then why not next time just for curiosity’s sake, try not speaking up. See what happens. how do you feel? Does the situation resolve itself without you? It’s such a great question you’ve asked – and something I relate to. I have a lot of loud mind chatter about needing to keep things congenial and I have a tendency to speak up when it’s none of my business – but I find that oftentimes things go more smoothly when I don’t. Take an attitude of playful curiosity with yourself. Does that make sense?
Lisa Is think my significant other is depressed, he has occasionally days where he shuts down and not a word from him. In the last year and a half this has happened three times. The last episode was 3 weeks ago, he seems out of sorts I said together we are strong and our love will get us through this at least we are ok and love each other, you know I am here for you. He we are and I do love you, however I “may need” to move on alone. He tells me every day he loves me, still sends me hugs and kisses, but he does not want to be a couple anymore. I cant wrap my head around this, we are both senior citizens, brought in a era when you don’t throw the towel in and you work at your relationship. Please help me understand this, I think he does suffer with some sort of depression or maybe even SADD a form of depression. He is more likely to shut down during cold, wet, gloomy periods of time. January 1, 2017 he sang and dedicated to me the song “can I have this dance for the rest of my life” I replied really do you mean that, he said yes. My birthday In Feb was so wonderful, he was so loving, his feelings in his card were amazing. and then March and my mind does not know what to do, he still wants to spend time with me but “with no strings Attached” it is starting to wear on my mind, my heart and soul, he is a wonderful, awesome man I can’t stop loving him. Please help me wrap my head around this.