Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 02/6/07 6:30 AM

Feature: Are You A Serial Pleaser?

Are you a serial pleaser?

Don’t run yourself ragged trying to please everyone.

A serial pleaser is someone who is forever trying to keep everyone in his/her circle happy all the time. An exhausting prospect, but you’d be surprised as to how many of us attempt to do just that, sometimes unconsciously.

Of course, it doesn’t take a shrink to tell us that we’d rather everyone loved us than loathed us. Basking in the warm glow of affection upgrades our self-image and boosts our confidence.

And so, there we are. Ready to go out on a limb to do someone a favour, even if that involves a long trip out of town. We stand in queues for someone who lives far away, run around booking hotel accommodation and arranging coach tours for a visiting cousin, three times removed.

We take people out to lunch, we apologise endlessly for perceived slights and we don’t argue simply to avoid a scene.

Mask of affability

The thing is, it eventually tells on us. There we are, stressed out; tempers fraying, the mask of affability fast slipping. Because, even as we tell ourselves that we love doing things for people, there is a core of resentment building up deep inside.

And one day, that pressure cooker will burst. Ultimately, the one person you should try and please most of the time — you — are being neglected.

Clinical psychologists say women seem to struggle with an innate serial pleaser syndrome much more than men.

A woman thing

Women, it seems, are raised to accommodate others; they seem more focussed on making others happy, or attempting to. Helping others is good; altruism has its own virtues, social and religious.

However, if you find that helping others is somehow intruding into your life, or is something you are doing for form’s sake, just stop. Learn to say `no,’ politely, firmly.

If you are working extra hard to impress your boss, remember it’s the quality of the work you do, not the hours you put in or the many projects you undertake that finally tips the balance.

The sad truth is that many a time, willingness to go the extra mile has people demanding more favours of you and dumping more work on you. Being a serial pleaser is opening yourself to exploitation.

How do you know when you are being stretched to become a serial pleaser? It’s when you feel you are doing all the giving and the world is doing all the taking.

Wean yourself from this addiction slowly. Don’t nod yes so fast and so easily; learn to adopt an expressionless face while you think things out.

Reserve time for yourself. Learn to indulge yourself more. Speak up for what you want. Delegate responsibilities and tasks.

Don’t run around trying to cover for others; they have managed without you and will do so in the future, too.

Make it clear to your bosses that you have a full workload and are doing full justice to it.

When your instinct tells you something is not ethical or morally right, back off even if you know you will annoy people.

The moment you find you are being taken for granted, step back. And finally, don’t render favours all the time, ask favours of others, too!

The bottom line is: you are not responsible for others’ happiness or problems.

So, jettison that needless guilt. Balance your life, balance those favours.

Quit being a serial pleaser.

This ran in THE HINDU of 5 Feb 2007.

attitudesFeatureFeaturesserial pleasertrying to please everyone

Sheila Kumar • February 6, 2007

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