‘Yes’ to others and ‘no’ to oneself shouldn’t be a concurrent decision.
For long, I have tried to be a people pleaser. Not that anyone takes notice, or if they do, they’d know that the reply to any WhatsApp message is never a one-worded answer. I used to find them quite rude and even had a thing for the ones who used to do it the nawab way.
Thus, for long that I remember, I believe that I have been quite a people pleaser. My decisions have seldom been on my intellect, rather have stemmed from my persona of being a well-liked, never saying ‘no’ person. So, I often find myself amid the bunch with alcohol and weed. And I felt proud over this ‘skill’ of mine, to make others feel comfortable, to not be the one people have wrong things to say about because I ‘pay’ my bit, I make some jokes, I give ‘gyaan’ which people know little about. I appreciated the fact that people could be accommodative around me, and this made me happy. To avoid conflict, I accept whatever ‘judgment’ is being passed on at me on the tea-table.
Honestly speaking, it did feel good for quite some time. I felt that I was indeed the ‘helpful’ one describing experiences. I was making people comfortable around me by bringing in the ‘stability’ over my presence.
All this, until one day, I thought I should speak up. That was the one day I said I ‘wouldn’t be attending the party’ because apparently, I had my exams coming. Not that I had not prepared enough, but this was one heck of a time to move out. At around 10 pm in the night in a small town, and it’s really a big deal for parents to let their child go out.
This is the day I realized, that may be the ‘people pleaser’ persona of mine had backfired. My explanations didn’t mean anything because apparently, ‘I could always find a way out, my parents didn’t question much going out.’
While one of the reasons for the negative response was obviously my parents, back in my mind I knew how important the time was for me and I couldn’t just manage to sneak out some time out of the heavy schedule that I had.
This is what made me the ‘cunning and strategist’ spade who would do things as he liked, and not how people would want him to. The changed attitude around me made me realize that the times I didn’t act like the way I should, saying yes to people who didn’t really deserve it, and in fact going way beyond to be in peace with them, was all wrong.
Why did saying ‘NO’ to someone made the people around me so uncomfortable? Why was I called ‘cunning’ just because of this one time around? Why did the ‘people pleaser’ himself couldn’t control the anxiety-ridden feeling that was growling in his stomach? I wasn’t in a condition to accept the invitation, but why did I end up being the culprit over the 1000s of incidences where I had acted the way ‘they liked me’ to?
I found the answer after examining a bit about my recent past.
The four years of preparation had made me an introvert. I didn’t come out of my 8*10 room because I couldn’t manage through the test series, reading academic books, and failing each year to achieve my dream.
It was when I turned 25 and saw my brother enjoying his life, and having one incident to share each time we were spending time with each other, that I got to know so much about him, things I never knew he would have done. I realized that I had no stories to share through the life-riddles, and my loneliness had made me the people-pleaser. This is because I never had many acquaintances in my life and my way of ‘pleasing’ people by never saying ‘NO’ was my way of trying to build trust.
It was really important for me to add the least amount of complication in my life, and hence taking the ‘Yes’ way forward was the only way through. I couldn’t afford to be in stress again.
Realizing this, I understood that thinking too much about what people talked about behind my back was only going to add some ‘discomfort’ in my life. It thus meant that even if people talked about me, the best way forward was to simply ignore and move ahead. I made peace with the thought that to be the ‘extrovert’ like my brother was, I was trying to lie to myself acting as a ‘people pleaser’.
I made peace over the fact that I couldn’t explain everything to everyone, every time. I made peace over the part of me who had lied to myself for acting in a way others wanted me to. I started to practice the art of being in love with myself. I tried to find solace in things I already had, the ability to critically analyze things people thought was ‘gyaan’.
Saying a ‘no’ shouldn’t change the way people have been in your life. The real people are the ones who wouldn’t hate me for the simple fact that I said ‘No’ to their invitation, their opinion, or their matter. If they do and talk behind your back about the bad that you have while ignoring the plethora of ‘good’ that you have tried to be with them or generally, it wasn’t a relationship strong enough to be cherished or protected.
I realized that it wasn’t worth taking all the efforts to try and explain your side of the story to someone. After all, if they cannot accommodate your obligations, why’d you take the time to explain something they have already made an opinion about? We should stop with the explanation part after each ‘NO’.
There may be a time when you’d realize that the divide between you and your acquaintances becomes great and content can no longer be hidden. As we try to be a bit more visible, the people around may try to pushback the change. It is in these situations that you try to explain more than you actually should. We think that when we explain ourselves, the ‘people pleaser’ that they think you are would be back. But this isn’t how the way should be.
Every situation is unique, and no answer is always right. But instead of explaining yourself, you should just keep your point and let the resistance stay. You need to stop explaining people who wouldn’t invest properly in your thoughts.
Question yourself. Be critical, and have an opinion. It is important to learn, that being afraid of not speaking up enough because of fear of losing the ones near you.