Have you ever altered your behavior in an attempt to make someone else feel better? If you have, you may be pleased to know that you are entirely normal. We’ve been trained since the moment of birth to put others’ needs ahead of our own. Perhaps our parents or care-givers wanted us to be quiet when we wanted to be loud, or they wanted us to wear something we didn’t want to wear, or eat something we didn’t want to eat. They were relentless until we complied.
Our teachers often wanted us to learn the way they wanted to teach, society expected us to value what they thought we should value, friends subtly pressured us until we acquiesced to the vision of the pack, lovers withheld love until we gave them what they wanted and bosses withheld favor until we gave them what they required. Many religions even encourage us to deny our desires with the promise of future reward if we comply.
Is it any wonder that we often find ourselves volunteering for things we don’t want to do, gravitating to jobs that don’t fulfill us; instead of following our passions. Sometimes we settle for mates and lovers who regularly take far more than they give, and we are expected to put our kids’ needs far above our own. We wouldn’t know what we wanted for ourselves if someone asked.
We have been inundated with the message to follow along, care what the neighbors think, fear what political, religious or cultural leaders say. We are eager to please and we say yes when often, all we really want is to say no.
What would you do if no one had expectations of you? Who would you be? Who would you be with? How would you spend your days? Where would you spend your time and how would you spend your money?
Does it feel good to put yourself second or fifth or tenth to other people’s priorities? Do you feel empowered, valued, loved, balanced or excited about it? If you do then you’re right on track. Carry on. But if those actions leave you feeling lonely, used, tired, afraid, depressed, angry or powerless then maybe it’s time to try something new.
When you are experiencing negative emotions as a result of what you are doing you are always creating more of what you do NOT want. Always. No exceptions! If you want more for yourself you’ll want to begin practicing some awareness and discover what it is that you do want.
What To Change?
The easiest and most effective way to learn this is by paying attention to how you FEEL when someone asks you to do something (or when you’re feeling a sense of obligation to do something). Before you respond, give yourself a moment and take your emotional temperature. If you were to say yes, what emotion would you experience? And if no; what then?
If you don’t get a good feeling then why proceed? If there is a huge sense of obligation then at the very least it would be prudent to find a way of looking at the task in a positive light. Proceeding while you are steeped in negative emotion will prove to be an invitation for more unwanted expectations and obligations in your life.
Just becoming aware of how you might be altering your own personal preferences in order to to make someone else feel better is a big step.
If you were teaching a child how to navigate this world, would you encourage them to do whatever anyone else wanted or would you encourage them to be a captain of their own ship?
Practice becoming a little more aware of what you are feeling when you are being asked to do something. Take time to ask yourself, am I saying yes to gain acceptance or because I really want to do it? And if you really want to start changing things in your life, do what other people want a little less and do what you want a little more.
Layne Schmidt is the creator of www.RubyShuze.com a web-based learning tool for individuals interested in creating a better life for themselves and the ones they love. Participants can either sign up for daily emails or download a study guide. All lessons are practical and simple but the discoveries will be profound. The site is also filled with all kinds of extra resources for individuals wanting to take their self exploration to a deeper level. The site also offers a free monthly newsletter.