OPINION: The Pleaser

Grace Clarke, Opinion Writer

I recently read an article in my feature writing class about a 15-year-old who died of football. His coach overworked him in extreme heat, leading the young Max Gilpin to collapse and die on the field. What I found fascinating about this story is that if Max weren’t such a people pleaser, maybe he would still be alive today.

Max tried to quit football. Several times. However, his parents kept encouraging him to stick with it. He didn’t want to disappoint his parents. Max was a people pleaser. That’s how his loved ones described him. He would do anything for anyone if it meant he wouldn’t let them down.

Being a people pleaser is a trait that can sometimes seem like a good thing, but I promise you it’s not. You’re putting your own needs and desires on the back burner while you just smile and nod at whoever is making you choose them over yourself.

Now, I’m a people pleaser myself. I’ve always been so scared of letting the ones I love down, so I will typically do whatever is best for them, even if that means I suffer. If someone spilled hot soup on me, I’d be the one to apologize.

“Oh no no, I’m sorry it was honestly probably my fault anyways.”

I smile and nod as I accept defeat in a disagreement with a friend. I know deep down they’re in the wrong, and they hurt me — but I apologize anyways, as I’m too afraid to upset them.

I ask myself, “Do I even have a backbone?”

Well, I do, but it sure is curvy (I do have scoliosis so…).

If I’ve learned anything from being a people pleaser for 20 years is that people will begin to take advantage of your willingness to please them. You get walked all over like a doormat. Is that what I am? A doormat? Focusing on others’ happiness can make you lose sight of your own. It can also test your values. Are you willing to throw away the morals and values you cherish to make someone else feel better?

“You want to be compassionate to people. You want to be mindful of people. You want to be kind and generous to people,” said psychotherapist Akua K. Boateng to the Washington Post. “You don’t have to orient your experience around the pleasing.”

It’s hard to have true and authentic relationships with people if all you do is become overly agreeable. My dad was a people pleaser and one of the kindest and most genuine people I knew. However, others also noticed my dad’s tendency to please others. I watched so many people walk over my dad because they knew they could.

I don’t want to be a doormat. I am learning that there is beauty in saying no and standing up for yourself. Life is too short to only please others. It’s time to start pleasing yourself.

So, go and be a little selfish.

Say no when it makes you uncomfortable.

Now, not all situations are like Max’s – life or death. Max was a kind, sweet boy that let others decide his life for him.

Take charge of your life and say no.

Grace Clarke is an opinion writer. Contact her at [email protected].