I look back on those years now, and I can see so many situations where I’d bend over backward for people expecting nothing in return. Go out of my way to solve a problem even if I wasn’t initially involved. I would make myself readily available to people whenever they needed me, because I knew I could help them. Now, on one hand, these are all good things to do — I don’t doubt that for a minute. If we all sought to go above and beyond to help those around us when they need help, I’m convinced that we’d rid ourselves of a massive chunk of the world’s problems. But it’s when you start giving up so much of yourself to others that it becomes detrimental to your well-being that it’s crossed the line and you have become a spineless sap.
But why do we do it? What compels us to want to please others so much? Where do we draw the line? Where is the point that jumping on command — or by reflex — is something that we should reconsider, for the sake of everybody involved?
Always being agreeable isn’t the same as always being polite — other words come to mind instead: Timidity. Cowardice. Ambivalence. We were born with the power of free will, yet we so often shirk it to appease others and travel the path of least resistance.
Why? Why do we cast our opinions and best interests aside? Is it because of our desire for companionship? Do we feel that we’ll be ostracized from the environments around us unless we conform to the direction from those in charge?
They can be bosses, significant others, parents — there can be an exhaustive list of people who can turn us into people-pleasers, whether we like it or not. And sure, it might be for moderately convincing reasons:
- Boss: “Do it, or you’re fired.”
- Parents: “Do it, because without us, you wouldn’t exist.”
- Significant others: “Do it, or I’ll make your day miserable.”
…but are they convincing enough? Should we defer to others simply because of their station in life and the impact they could potentially have on ours, or is there more to it?
Like most of us, you might simply be a sheep — it’s unfortunate, but true. You’re free to disagree with me, but many of us simply get stuck. We do things to give ourselves the feeling that we have control over our lives, and that may be the case — for a moment here or a moment there — but when it comes down to it, most of us are nothing more than people living according to the ebbs and flows of life, not taking command to live the way we see fit. In high school, you can very clearly see who the cliques are — they all have their ringleaders (or alpha males/females), they have their “reserved” area of the cafeteria — they’re the darlings of the school.
Have our adult lives come so far, though?
We’ve all come across the types of people who lead the packs — those who demand respect and loyalty from their peers. They have posses (that tag along with them wherever they go) from which they draw strength and confidence. They’re the ones who tell us to jump, and we say “How high?” Are these people in control of their lives, or is it simply we who transfer control to them, because for some odd twisted reason, we figure that they know best?
It may be time to turn the tables around.