Stop Trying to Please Everyone: Live Your Way

by Ali on July 27, 2009

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What would you do if you had a blank slate, a fresh start, and no-one expecting anything in particular of you?

What would you do if you knew your friends, family and colleagues were guaranteed to be impressed and encouraging?

Depending on your perspective and your current position, those questions could be terrifying. They could also be liberating, helping you rediscover that part of you that still believes in possibilities:

“When I Grow Up…”

When you were a kid or teen, the answers to “what do you want to be when you grow up?” were limitless. My future career plans included “Queen of the world”, aged 3, and later, “An astronaut”, “Prime Minister” and “Best-selling novelist”. Your answers may have been similarly ambitious – or at least focused on things you were passionate about as a child (my dinosaur-obsessed little brother wanted to be a palaeontologist).

Kids don’t worry about things like getting a mortgage, eating sensible meals, and paying the rent. They see adulthood as a place of amazing freedom: when you’re an adult, you can cross the road on your own, buy as many comics as you like, and even eat cookies for breakfast.

Somehow, by the time we reach our early twenties and start on adulthood, this world of vast possibilities has narrowed. We go to college, because that’s what everyone else is doing. Then we look for a sensible, entry-level job, because that’s what everyone else is doing. Pretty soon, we think about buying a house, getting a better car, working towards a promotion … because that’s what everyone else is doing.

What Went Wrong?

Life isn’t supposed to be a dull, day-in-day-out routine where work is bearable and evenings are spent going through the motions: eating dinner, watching television, surfing the net … waiting for it to be time to go to bed, and get up, and repeat it all over again

Life should be an adventure, a journey, a leap into the unknown, a chance to grow, an opportunity to do something that makes a difference after you’ve gone. One of my favourite books as a child was Ballet Shoes and I still remembering being struck by the desire of Pauline, Petrova and Posy to “get our names in the history books, because it’s our own, and nobody can say it’s because of our grandfathers.” (Ballet Shoes, Noel Streatfeild – Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk)

What went wrong? How can you escape from the humdrum life you’ve fallen into, and start living a life that means something to you?

Don’t Let Other People’s Expectations Hem You In

A few folk have no problems with “peer pressure”: they’re self-declared rebels and renegades, forging on in their own direction without any worries about what their dad, grandma, former headmaster or friends from college might think.

Many of us, though, find that other people’s expectations can begin to rule our lives. In some ways, this is a natural thing: as humans, we’re social creatures, and it’s hard to risk being derided or excluded by are community. Some of us are also people-pleasers: as children, we delighted in praise from parents and teachers, and we continue seeking this as adults.

There are a lot of problems with living a life designed to fit everyone else’s expectations of you, though. The top three, as I see it, are:

  • You can’t please everyone
  • Their expectations may be based on a narrow, inaccurate view of you
  • Your values could be wildly different from theirs

1.      You Can’t Please Everyone

I’ve always liked this story about “The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey”:

A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”

So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way.  But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”

So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey.  By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them.  The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at.  The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey with you and your hulking son?”

The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do.  They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders.  They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole.  In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them: “Please all, and you will please none.”

(The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey, from AesopFables.com)

The point isn’t hard to grasp: trying to please everyone is impossible, and will result in failure to please anyone (especially yourself). If you have any experience of blogging or writing for an audience, you’ve probably had the experience of getting glowing praise and damning criticism … for the same article. People don’t always agree.

If you’re trying to live up to all the expectations that crowd in on you (from parents, friends, and society at large) – you’ll end up feeling miserable because you’re not living the life you want to, and you’ll inevitably not manage to meet all the competing demands.

2.      Their Expectations May Be Based On A Narrow, Inaccurate View Of You

People make snap judgements in life: they might meet you briefly, and proceed to offer all sorts of advice based on an inaccurate assessment of who you are.

Families often fail to recognise how you’ve changed and grown over the years. They also tend to label you – and it’s easy to end up conforming to these labels because you believe them. “Oh, Bob’s always been the lazy one” or “Sue has her head in the clouds” or “Tom never could focus on anything.”

Frankly, you’re the only person in the world who knows what’s happening inside your head. You might have a huge amount of potential that no-one else recognises. Your parents or your friends might have pigeonholed you – but you know there’s more to you than what they see. Even if you do have plenty of habits and characteristics that you’d like to change, you have the ability to do that.

3.      Your Values Could Be Wildly Different From Theirs

To me, this is the biggest problem with trying to meet other people’s expectations: they might have a completely different agenda to yours. Perhaps your dad thinks the most important thing you could do with your life is have a very secure career, whereas you value creative self-expression through poetry or art. No wonder that your dad wants you to “get a proper job – make the most of yourself” – but if you follow his advice to become an accountant or doctor or lawyer, you’re likely to be making yourself miserable.

Sometimes, you need to get clear about your own values and priorities: then you can figure out what you want to refocus your life around. (Tim Brownson helped me with this, I’d suggest giving him a call if you want a hand figuring out what you’re doing with your life.)

Your parents might think you’re crazy. Your friends might laugh at you. Your brother might call you a wishy-washy bleeding-heart hippy. Your old school pals might say you’ve sold out. Don’t ignore their advice … but don’t be afraid of what they think.

Stop Worrying About What Other People Think

One of my favourite book titles is “What Do You Care What Other People Think?” (Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk) – a biographical account of episodes in Richard Feynman’s life. Those words were spoken to him by his wife, and perhaps they carry some indication of why Feynman became one of the best known scientists of the 20th century: he didn’t worry about what people thought of him.

Does your mental soundtrack go anything like this?

  • I don’t want to go out tonight, but Marcy will think I’m boring if I stay in.
  • I can’t read a personal development book on the train – people will think there’s something wrong with me.
  • I’m over-committed already, but how can I say no to John? He’ll think I don’t like him.
  • I’d be really refreshed by taking a day off just to play computer games, eat pizza and do what the hell I like … but my partner will think I’m just being lazy.

Just as no-one else in the world knows what goes on inside your head, you can’t lift a flap and peek inside their skull either. It really is a waste of time to worry what other people will be thinking: you’ll probably guess wrong, and (even if they put their thoughts into words, as a negative comment), their thoughts are very unlikely to have any real effect on you.

I’ve often worried what people will think, and how they’ll react, to some action of mine. This has ranged from tiny things (“No, sorry, I don’t want to join that sub-committee”) to huge ones (“Hey mum, I’ve quit my job to freelance”). Time and time again, I’ve found that people always react more positively than I expect.

We can internalise other people’s advice, strictures or warnings so much that it can take a bit of thinking to unpick where they come from.  You could be struggling to pay the rent on a place of your own just because your college friends insisted they’d never be seen dead going back to their parents’ home. You may find yourself busy gardening every weekend just because your neighbours have prize-winning rose bushes. Perhaps you even chose your whole career based on what your teachers wanted for you, not what you wanted.

Whose expectations are you living up to? Who are you trying to please? What would you do if you had a blank slate, a fresh start, and unconditional encouragement from your loved ones?

{ 12 trackbacks }

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{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Shauna July 28, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Fab article Ali! And now I have a hankering to re-read Ballet Shoes… I must have read that 50 times as a kid :)

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Ali July 28, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Do it! (Or watch the film version, which was surprisingly good…) Have you read any of the others by Streatfeild? “Curtain Up”, “The Painted Garden” and “White Boots” were all good childhood reads. They’ve apparently all been rebranded as “(something) Shoes” now — there’s a great article at http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A908985 if you’re interested…

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Kaizan July 30, 2009 at 10:13 am

Hi Ali,

Just discovered your blog today. I love your writing style!

This post is about a topic close to my heart, because I think a lot of people struggle with the choice between pleasing others and doing what we want to do.

My personal feeling is that some people will criticise you if you are a failure, but they’ll also criticise you if you’re a success. So trying to live a life that avoids other people’s judgements is a no-win game!

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Ali July 30, 2009 at 11:24 am

Hey Kaizan,

Thanks for the comment – glad you’re enjoying the blog and the style (something I’m a bit unsure about!)

I know what you mean, some successful folks seem to attract a lot of criticism – perhaps this is occasionally warrented, depending on how they achieved success, but my impression is that many people work darn hard to get to where they are.

I suppose the best we can do about this is to not compound the problem; it’s awfully easy to feel judgemental about others, and it’s something I know I have to consciously struggle against at times.

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A. Ekerplay August 12, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Hi Ali,

As a year 12 student, I am exposed almost daily to the idea that the correct life is an ordinary one. While I do plan to go to Uni (college) and study science, it is an all-consuming fear of mine that I may fall into the trap of a routine-centric life. You’ve given me some great advice – thanks for sharing your message!

Bisous, Ekerplay

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Ali August 12, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Hey Ekerplay,

I know I felt like that in Year 12 (I took 5 AS levels, too, which meant I had to be quite focused on just getting through the year!) The best thing about uni/college is that it really does expand your horizons – I became much more confident and took a self-development course which started me off on the road that’s led to me writing this blog :-)

Ali

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Oie August 19, 2009 at 3:13 am

Here I am 50 years old. I just lost my dad and I don’t like my mother. She never built a relationship with me, never. My dad id it all. I don’t want to bother with her and yet she is trying to tell me what I should do since I am facing some big changes. I haven’t asked. I try not to talk to her. I am OK with what may or may not take place. She has a problem with everything and everybody. I just want to tell her to dissappear. Her lack of acceptance has kept me from finding the love and support I need because she disapproves of everything. I am just not mean enough in spirit to totlaly cut her out. I preach being nice to my students and I guess this is why I do so. I believe in it despite not growing up with it from someone who is supposed to be so important.
Oie.

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Ali August 19, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Hi Oie,

I’m sorry to hear about your loss – I hope you’ve got people you can talk to and be with.

It’s a shame to hear that your relationship with your mother is difficult. It sounds as though her lack of love and her disapproval has made it tough for you to do the things you want. I agree that cutting her out of your life completely would be unnecessary – however, at 50 years old, her disapproval shouldn’t be restricting your choices any more.

Are there other figures who could provide love and support for you at this difficult time of change and choices? (Perhaps a good friend, an aunt or uncle, or someone at your work?) You mention students – if you work in an academic institution, do you have access to a counselling service, or anyone you can talk to?

It sounds like you might benefit from life coaching, so that you could get some help and support in finding the right path for you. If that is a route you choose to go down, I highly recommend Tim Brownson (from A Daring Adventure life coaching). You can find him at http://www.adaringadventure.com/

Best of luck, and my sympathies again for your loss of your father.

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Dre September 9, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Thank you Ali, reading your artical has lifted the world off my shoulders and back. 10 min before reading your artical, I told my self my biggest problem I have is that I wan everyone to love me. Lol easy to say I was not doing very well in getting the world to love. But as I read yout artical I was better understanding why I was unable to world wide love, or in your word please everybody. Thank you for helping me see the light in myself and to be strong again.

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Ali September 9, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Thank you Dre – I’m so glad to hear I could help!

It’s never going to be possible to please everyone. I always feel very uncomfortable when someone disapproves of my actions or thinks badly of me — like you, I want everyone to love me! But I recognise that some people simply have very different values and concerns from mine.

In the end, the best you can do is to love and value yourself first – don’t let other people’s responses push you down a path that isn’t right for you.

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Lea July 17, 2010 at 2:14 am

What a great article! I’m this type of person – always trying to make people happy. I live my life trying to please others before myself. I sometimes do it even when I am fed up and annoyed too. Sometimes I’ll cry out and even suffer from anxiety because of this. I try to be a perfect host who has a really clean house, the tastiest meals, the most entertaining, etc., but then I get worn out and end up resenting the people who are staying at my home or my friends. I start wondering why can’t they show me appreciation, gratitude or at least offer to help. I am sick and tired of living up to people’s expectations, but it’s so damn hard to change and not care what people think of you. Fear of rejection comes into play and it’s ruining my life. I don’t want my children being like me.

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Ali July 20, 2010 at 5:48 pm

I agree it’s tough, and it takes a lot of working at for those of us who are naturally people-pleasers. I always feel obliged to tidy up if friends/relatives are coming over. Not sure I have any great tips, except for trying to be aware of when *you* are putting expectations on yourself, and gradually expanding your comfort zone (e.g. would everyone be just as happy with pizza as with an elaborate meal?)

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Brianna July 19, 2010 at 2:11 am

Hi Ali,

I too just came across your blog and really enjoyed your writing style and message! This topic is something that my friends and I have been talking about a lot recently. We’re in our early 20s and come from a town where many people have a set of ideals we’re not sure we agree with anymore. I’m also close to finishing college but I don’t really like my degree or think it will be especially useful. But, my parents definitely want me to get a degree, and society in general seems to feel its the best choice. For me, it’s not so much about pleasing a bunch of different groups of people, but more just one group – as it seems my parents and society all feel the same about this issue. I guess what I’m having a hard time with is trying to convince myself that my desires have validity, too. But its hard when sooo many people seem to have an opposing view. It makes me think I’m wrong.

But I really liked your suggestion to think about what my own values and priorities are first. I think that’s been something that’s holding me back from really breaking out on my own. I don’t even know if I myself want a degree or not. And so I’m lacking the confidence to take action either way.

Anyway, great article, I’ll be passing it along :).

Thanks,
Brianna

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Ali July 20, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Thanks Brianna! I’m sorry to hear about your degree :-( I was lucky that my folks supported my choice to study English Literature (and I’m now making a living writing, so I guess it worked out ;-)) I actually found that all the stuff that went alongside getting a degree … friends, experiences, learning to be self-motivated and work on my own … was more important to me than the degree itself.

My take on it was that I didn’t care much about a degree (I knew I wanted to write, rather than take the sort of job which needed a degree), but I *did* want the university experience. :-)

Plus, having a degree does open up certain doors — it gives you more options. That doesn’t mean you have to take that path, though!

Since you’re nearly finished, I’d say stick with it, but make the most of your time as a student in other ways (perhaps making sure you get the time to explore things you might be interested in — hobbies, volunteering, etc). And yep, definitely think about *your* values and priorities. It might be that family is one of your key values, and that’s why you’re keen to please your parents — that’s not a bad thing, but it’s worth being aware of.

Good luck!

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Laila September 5, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Hi Ali,
As a Muslim girl going to a public high school, I find your article truely profound and I deeply appreaciate you for writing upon these sorts of topics. When you mentioned values, I didn’t just think of the kind of values you mentioned…I thought about the values of my religion and culture that I love sticking with. However, when people disparage me for doing so, I feel so belittled and I start slacking off the right path. Then, I realise that it’s not worth trying to please my friends because they are never pleased! I have changed the group of friends that I’ve been spending my time with, but unfortunately I haven’t found any significant difference in the treatment. Therefore, I am trying to bring back the “true me,” but I still crave to fit in most of the time. However, after reading your article, my passion for being me is refreshed and ready for the journey! Thank you!
Laila

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Ali September 6, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Laila, I’m so glad it helped you. I think religious and cultural values are hugely important — and I’m really sorry to hear how difficult you’re finding things with your friends.

I found my teenage years tough at school; I’m a Christian and was pretty open about it, and I got a lot of negative comments about some of my beliefs and values. It helped me to have friends and family in my church … do you have Muslim friends, even ones who aren’t in school?

And prayer, of course, is always a great source of strength and support.

Good luck on your journey, and trust me, life after high school is much easier! Adults are more civilised and tolerant about people who aren’t “normal”.

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ashley September 25, 2010 at 4:17 am

hello hi my name is Ashley and i come to believe i have a habit of pleasing other people and i feel like that is not a good habit to have at all i find myself being rejected but for what by who you know i think its time i buld my own expections on myself not on wha others think of me you know

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Sharren Grant October 11, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Thank you Ali for a great article! I often find myself caught up in what other people think and trying to please everybody but myself, but I have found this to be a dangerous trap, one in which I’m working hard these days to overcome. I started my first blog (I included the address in the details above) with a vision something similar to what I see here, a personal development saga, hoping to give inspiration to others based on my experiences with living a creative life and how I see the world. Your writing speaks to me, more than anything else I’ve ever found on the web, so I joined up and will be following you now too! I’m very happy to have found your website, and I’m looking forward to diving right in!

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Ali October 21, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Thanks Sharren! I’m glad you found me too :-D

Best of luck with your own blog — it can feel pretty tough when you’re just getting started and building up an audience, but blogging is one of the best things that’s happened to me, and I think that anyone who wants to write or who has a message to share will benefit from blogging about it.

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Sophia December 17, 2010 at 11:59 pm

OMIGOSHHHHHHHHH :)
i LOVED this story & ESPECIALLY the donkey story !

it’s SO true. you can’t please everyone! :)
I LOVE YOUR WRITING STYLE. :D

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Emma January 4, 2011 at 10:05 am

Hey Ali,

I’m in Year 13 at the moment and I am currently in the process of looking at where I want my life to go. Everyone around me is applying for university, and while I am pretty certain it is what I want to do, I often have the problem that I feel I am trying to please too many people. I know this is certainly what my parents want, and to get where I want to be I need a secure job, so university seems like a logical way to go. However in day to day life I find myself worrying about what those around me think of me and I want to learn to just live my life the way I want, and hopefully some day I’ll be able to do that.
Your blog entry really brightened up my day, especially the the Donkey story. I like your writing style a lot, keep up the good work :D

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Ali January 6, 2011 at 10:06 am

I absolutely sympathise! I was pretty lucky that I knew I wanted to go to uni (wasn’t ready to face the real world ;-)) and I got to study English literature, which I loved. But I totally understand the pressure to try to do what parents/teachers want.

Glad this post helped. I like the donkey story a lot :-)

Will drop you an email in a mo…

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Fred Tracy January 23, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Great article Ali! Recently I’ve completely gone out on my own path in life. I’ve been met with a lot of social resistance because of some of the choices I’ve made, but I know that if I live with integrity and love then no amount of peer pressure will ever stop me. Thank you! :)
.-= Fred Tracy´s last blog ..How to Change Your Lens and Dispel Delusion =-.

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Ali January 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Thanks Fred..! Good luck with your path, hope you find plenty of supporters who “get” it along the way. :-)

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Natalie.L. February 19, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Hey Ali,
I came across this article today and I want to thank you for writing this.
I’m currently doing a degree that I have grown to dislike over the past four years of studying it and I feel miserable most of the time. I will be graduating this May and I’ve been so worried of how my life would be like after all this. My dad had always been pushing me to take a degree and now he’s telling me where I should apply for a job after I’m done with my degree.
I don’t want to let him down but I am so tired of trying to please him and fulfill everyone else’s expectations. I’ve always wanted to do something in arts and pursue a career in this field but my parents have never been supportive when it comes to art stuff. They always say that it would bring me nowhere.
I feel like if I go out and do what they want me to, it would make them happy and completely unaware of how I feel.
I hope I could start making my own decisions and remind myself that I can’t please everyone :)

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Ali February 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Hey Natalie,

I’ve sent you an email – just wanted to add here in the comments (for anyone else reading) that you can’t take on the responsibility for someone else’s happiness.

Obviously, you want your parents to be proud of you — but you need to live your own life too. It sounds like you’ve got a pretty good idea of what you *would* like to do, and I really hope you get the chance to try.

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Ranjith February 19, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Ali -Thanks for the great post. I have absolutely loved it. This is very true … and what a refreshing feeling if you ignore all the unnecessary expectations.

Like your writing style… keep posting.

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Ali February 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Thanks Ranjith! :-) I will indeed keep posting!

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ria May 20, 2011 at 9:29 pm

hi Ali!,
i just found out about this article and I have to say I’m already feeling better. Well, Im a teenager and this is the first time that im facing such a difficult year of responsibilities. I’m going to ballet classes and I am a part of a dance club in my city. I managed to get in the club through my dance school, so obviously a cannot be a member of the club, if I stop the classes. My problems starts, while i have 2 weeks period to study for my external exams, I spent almost everyday on dancing at the dance club or my dance school. I have to stop something in order for me to manage to pass my exams with good grades, however I cannot because Im afraid to talk to my dance teachers because they are always stopping me from doing what I want to do(to stop the dance lessons, because I’m expiriencing too much pressure:/). I’ve tried several times to stop, but i never get what i want due to their sayings that I have to move on because Ive been dancing for many years. Im really worried about my exams, and i dont know how to find the strength to speak! This is not what i want to do and everytime they remove my confidence. I would really like to read your advice.;/

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Ali May 21, 2011 at 10:18 am

Hi Ria,

That sounds really tough — so you need to do the classes in order to stay part of the club?

Can you ask someone at your school to talk to the club and explain that you need to take a break during your exams? Have you talked to your parents about the pressure you’re facing?

I know how hard it can be to stand up to people, but this is YOUR life! If you’re not enjoying the classes but you still want to be part of the club, can you talk to someone at the club and explain the situation?

Good luck!

Ali

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Mohammed Ali June 4, 2011 at 3:50 pm

WOW! Really good article Ali!
It helped me out a LOT and really made me have confidence in myself. I just want to say a BIG THANK YOU!!! for making this article and I really appreciate it and it really means a lot.
Many Thanks :)

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sudha September 22, 2011 at 6:32 am

This is s life changing article! I am falling short of words in thanking you, to have written this marvelous write-up. It really made my day!

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Kamal September 22, 2011 at 7:01 am

Love the story of donkey.. ;)

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Tracy March 3, 2012 at 4:55 am

Thank you SO much for this article. I had a bad day at work because my coworkers were disappointed in a choice I made. At my workplace, everyone values consistency and rules – basically there is no room for exceptions. Well, today I made an exception, and boy, did they hate me! When things like this happen, it really gets me down, and I ALWAYS assume that I must be in the wrong. It’s just a habit of mine, I empathize with people too much and I tend to think that in some way, they MUST be right if they disagree with me. My personality is like play-dough, I will change shape for the sake of others’ opinions. But after reading your article, I realized: I shouldn’t feel so bad. Obviously my coworkers have different values and concerns than I do, and if we don’t agree on everything, so what! Just because someone disagrees with you, it doesn’t mean you’re wrong. I can live the rest of my life happily, even if EVERYONE doesn’t like me. I think I can live with that!
Thank you SOOO much for your article. You were my psychologist!

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jawahar March 7, 2012 at 11:48 am

thank you so much for this article.
first point to change in my life is this.

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Mary April 27, 2012 at 2:23 am

I grew up being forced to think I existed to live for others (I grew up in the Roman Catholic “Living for yourself is a mortal sin” bit) but as an adult I am positively selfish, care not one whit what anyone else thinks of me, my life is my life nobody else’s, am a successful writer and poet, and have a totally awesome husband. Never again to be a people pleaser!

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joe May 14, 2012 at 3:07 am

omg. this might be the salvation i need to move forward

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linda May 15, 2012 at 12:31 am

I grew up with a mother who was an alcoholic during my childhood I look over responsibility for my siblings when she was drunk. I would continuously express my disappointment which made me the black sheep of the family but outsiders, including school teachers, they saw I was different from the rest of my family. My mother died when my sister was very young and I ended up looking after her, she’s now grown up and has done really well. I have a great husband and a successful career with a nice lifestyle but my success has has resulted in working so hard, while all my so called friends have moved on and had children. I don’t hear from them except when I send their kids birthday or christmas presents even then they sometimes forget. I now know they were never real friends but they were all I had. I’ve spent my whole life looking after other people trying to please everyone and it’s made me miserable, resulting in depression. I’m completely lost now, I want to do something for me but right now I feel I have no purpose in life. I don’t know where to go from here

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sisca May 30, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Hi Ali,
I too just came across your blog when I was searching the word “can’t please everyone” using google searching engine.
And I have to thank you for your writing. You have reminded me of an important value that somehow slipped off my mind for the last couple of years: “Please all, and you will please none.”
Leaving me with some questionis to answer at the end of your writing. I will certainly keep that in mind.

Take care.

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son June 20, 2012 at 3:39 am

really inspired by your post. “Please all, and you will please none.” I can totally resonate with this!

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Doug July 10, 2012 at 3:07 am

I like many others just found this. I have to say the way I’ve been feeling these past 16 years have been for everyone else. I work all the time so that no one goes without. I’ve been in 3 relationships and they have all ended the same I don’t give enough. I’m tired! Now I’ve finaly found some one and she makes me feel so alive. But I screwed that one up as well. I’m leaving and going to where no one knows me and living for me. I’m tired!!

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Gabriel August 31, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Hi so i just wanted to get some advice from you. Im 17 I graduated highschool and now I’m going to go in to career training and become a electrician. This has been what I have wanted to do and dreamt about for a while. But my parents are so against my goal and career path. It’s the kinda work that I like doing and get good money for it. My friends are supportive they even gave me “the most likely to be successful” senior superlative. I think they are so fixated on me going to college and getting a degree because they never got one. They have labeled me someone that I’m not. How do i approach them when they attack me with what they want m to be doing. How can I convince them that they can’t make me do what they want

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Ali September 4, 2012 at 5:41 pm

I think this is such a tricky situation, Gabriel — and you may not be able to convince them to support you, but of course it should be up to you what career path you take. Can you explain to them why you’ve chosen this particular path — and perhaps point out that there’s no point in you taking an expensive college degree that you won’t need or use?

If you’re still financial dependent on your parents (and most 17 year olds are) then obviously it’s a good idea to listen to their point of view too, and to try to put your point of view across in a calm way. Maybe there’s some agreement you could come to — e.g. you’ll train for a certain period of time, and if it’s not working out (though I’m sure it will), you’ll go to college.

Are there other family members who you could get on your side, too? e.g. an aunt, uncle, grandparent?

Best of luck!

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Geetha October 18, 2012 at 9:18 am

Hi Ali,

We had this lesson of the donkey in school… it is only now after reading your article that i have realised how I never did learn from it. I try to please people all the time and am taken advantage of.. thanks for this insight on life. I just love the way you write.

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Jean November 3, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Hello Ali, I have such a problem trying to please others that when I find out someone is displeased with me, or maybe just publicly disagrees with me, I go around for the next few days with a knot of dread in my guts. I tell myself to stop thinking about it and try to get my brain onto some other item, then before I know it I’m back at it again. Worry,worry,worry. I’ve made up my mind to try to focus on building some self-confidence, I am feeling a bit desperate. Like if I don’t succeed this time there won’t be enough of me left to try again. This is my second day, I get up earlier so I can have time over coffee to look up and read positive quotes or stories. Thus I have found you and your articles. Thanks for posting, now I’m off to start another new day and I’ll try to keep your words in my head.

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Paul January 15, 2013 at 3:02 am

Brilliant article

I can relate a lot, especially with the parents labelling of me!!

Lets hope I find the courage to break the mould, I think your article has helped this a lot!

Thanks!

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Lindsay January 16, 2013 at 7:18 pm

People criticized me when I decided to major in theatre in college. Maybe not the most marketable of majors, but I wanted to go where my passions lie. They thought it was easy. Maybe not as much book work as some other majors, but it is in no way easy. When you are a theatre major, as all theatre majors know, you have very little time for anything else.
In my current job, which having my theatre background has helped a great deal, my boss says I have to please everyone. I tried and failed. You can’t please everyone, so I please as many as I can and if someone doesn’t like my tour (I am a tour guide) that’s their problem. I don’t treat my tourists any differently. I treat them all with respect and I am kind. I may have one person a season that doesn’t like my tour and my boss feels the need to take disciplinary action on me. Most everyone likes it. With only a handful that don’t like it (and I don’t say anything offensive other than Andrew Jackson was born in South Carolina, and that only offends North Carolinians), with the way she reacts it’s a wonder she hasn’t fired me yet. Next time she criticizes me (you get more from me from encouragement than criticism) I am going to tell her my mantra, “God likes me and I like me. If you don’t like me, then you have a problem. If God likes me then who cares that everybody doesn’t approve of everything I do?”

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Huascar May 31, 2013 at 4:44 pm

This is great, really nailed what was happening to me.

I don’t know how to thank you,
!

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Amber June 6, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Wow great article, Ali! This is just the kind of advice I needed today. I am learning to overcome my fear of other people’s opinions of me, and this article has brought me a step closer:) Thank you for your helpful words of wisdom and I will definitely be checking out more of your posts!

-Amber

P.S. LOVE your writing style!!:D

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Izza July 24, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I’d like to share this with my friends on facebook? Is that okay? Good points, totally agree with you. Earlier i had a thought, “aren’t people tired trying to please everyone?” Then I found your blog… And I’d like to share it on Facebook

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Ali July 24, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Yes, of course that’s okay, Izza, please feel free to share this post.

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angie August 11, 2013 at 7:27 am

your aticle is very touching and helpful..All ihave lose the people who mean alot cause of trying to please every1 else..um afraid to live ma life..ihope this we wil help mi to stand for me..

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Jae December 22, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Great article bro

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godwin john February 9, 2014 at 4:58 pm

This article realy touched me…keep inspiring ppl…god bless !!

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K@te February 9, 2014 at 6:02 pm

A blank slate , a fresh start!! Wonderful article <3

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Sakiya February 17, 2014 at 11:59 am

awsome #each word of this article is inspiring #
:)))))

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