If you live to make people happy, you’ve probably realized it’s an unattainable goal. A burden. Some days you may be closer to fulfilling it, but to get there, you’ve twisted yourself like a pretzel inside and ignored your internal voice that whispers, “Just be yourself.”
As Abraham Lincoln said (and I took the liberty to replace his word fool with please):
“You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time.” Paraphrase: Get over it.
I like to think I’m not encumbered by the need to please people. Friends have admired my ability to be the authentic, often quirky, person I am. My round-peg-in-a-square-mold creds include: unusual name, childhood imaginary friends, majored in Art, lived overseas, married late in life, never had children, nomadic lifestyle, sometimes outlandish opinions. Nothing typical about me.
However, I know I’m not as tough as I pretend. There are a few people who can assert power over me. These self-appointed editors are quick to tell me about anything I put on this blog that doesn’t meet their approval. I’ve enabled them to stifle me. In fear of another critique, I often swallow words I believe God gives me, letting them be stillborn.
Lately, articles have circulated categorizing our Facebook posts. Either we’re seen as the Braggart when we’re over-the-top excited, or the Complainer when we’re struggling and asking for prayer. We can be Too Personal (sharing details of a medical nature) or Never Personal, only re-sharing popular articles without checking the facts, revealing how Gullible we are. Maybe we’re Excessive, posting about every little thing, or we post in Cryptic Codes so that our vagueness is impenetrable.
Really, do we need another label? I leafed through my old file of personality tests and found a pile. I am the Youngest Child. Baby Boomer. Starring Individualist. Designer/Developer. People Gatherer. Then there are my borderline categories, which make me Confused. Born in Maryland, I’m neither a Northerner nor Southerner. Introverted child who learned Extroverted skills as an adult. Dominant/Influencer. ENTJ Field Marshal/ENFP Champion. And I haven’t even touched spiritual gifts.
Here’s the thing. If someone doesn’t like what you post, they don’t have to read it. Or they can unfriend you. Which is only the end of the world if your goal in life is to please everyone.
Can’t we just honestly post how we’re doing without worrying what others will think? Of course, wisdom and discretion are called for, especially when something is put out there on the worldwide web. But we all know who our critics are. Their voices reverberate inside our heads, always present. Sometimes their criticism is constructive, but usually not. For whatever reason, we can never be good enough for those critics. So why do we bother? Why do we give them power?
As long as our Audience of One (hint: God) is pleased with us, just take a deep breath and push on. Silence those critics.
When I feel free to be who God created me to be, I’m real. Authentic. I transparently share my joys and my struggles. That seems to be what people have appreciated most about my book. How can my words – your words – help anyone if they only skim the surface? We need more coping, confessing role models, not Pollyannas pretending everything is always rosy. We all have crummy days from time to time. We have enough burdens to carry without adding Pleasing People to the weight.
So let it go.
(Is that okay?)