I’m a self-professed “people pleaser.” I always have been. I also happened to be a “type A” personality growing up (and it’s frankly comical that I use that reference in the past tense). The combination of these traits has made me into an adult that, annoyingly, cares very much about praise and acceptance.
I’ve found, however, that this driving need for acceptance is pretty widespread. It’s certainly not just me, though I’m bothered by how much I care sometimes. Mostly it’s my family (even at 24, it drives me nuts for my parents to not agree or support a decision of mine, and I’m grateful that the such an occurrence is rare), definitely some of my friends, and my academic and professional superiors whose approval I so eagerly seek. Upon inspection, I find the whole concept a little bit crazy. I’m 24, single, out on my own, figuring out who I am, supporting myself and making decisions that affect me and only me; so why should anyone’s approval but my own take center stage?
I don’t know why approval and acceptance are so highly valued in our minds. I’m referring to what I’ll call “superficial” approval and acceptance. The kind of praise and validation that is based not on the content of one’s character and more on one’s actions, decisions, beliefs and opinions. The latter are less significant means of accepting a person; we’re all so unique, with different backgrounds, quirks, traits and attributes. How can we expect to all agree? And yet we do expect to agree, we try desperately to convince one another of our “rightness.”
Think politics, I’m sure plenty of us have experienced this in the past weeks and in the wake of the election. Social media arguments were rampant, face-to-face debates, even blatant name-calling over one’s political beliefs. The same thing happens in the world of parenting; to vaccinate or not to vaccinate one’s child, to send them to childcare full-time or part-time, to breast feed or not to breast feed…the list goes on and on. Relationships, diets, religion, parenting, politics; there are so many methods available for us to differ and thus seek agreement.
I have recently had conversations with some close friends and family members who lead healthy lifestyles similar to mine, and who have experienced the same bewilderment from others over their choices. Many people seem to have a hard time embracing belief systems outside of the ones they themselves hold. I have a friend who’s vegan and constantly under pressure in some form or another. Whether it’s finding a dish on the menu that is indeed vegan, or fielding questions from baffled peers, “You mean, you don’t eat meat or dairy…ever?” Unless one is blatantly allergic to food, others often find it their business to try and “convince” them out of their personal dietary beliefs. Same goes for alcohol, I love me a fine glass of wine, but I drink very infrequently because I’m not keen on the disorientation I feel. Being just 24, I get bombarded with questions and sheer shock as to why I don’t want to drink.
In a crowded bar, out with friends, the last thing I want to do is relay to (what is oftentimes a perfect stranger) my personal pillars of health, the fact that I actually care to listen to my body and not dull my senses when the rest of my lifestyle strives holistically to heighten them, and (perhaps the least appropriate) pillar is, “It’s none of your stinkin’ business.” The bottom line can be summed up by a brilliant line I read today in an article on MindBodyGreen by Karen Sherwood. She wrote, “Mark David says it best, “‘If there are 6 billion people on the planet, there should be 6 billion diets.’”
I’ll leave you today to ruminate on that quote, as I have been doing. It makes perfect sense to me. It applies not only to diets, though, it applies to people in general. If there are 6 billion people on the planet, there should be 6 billion views on religion…politics…marriage…spirituality…on and on and on. While we can likely agree that most of us fall under umbrellas of titles, we are all so individualized that each human being takes a unique approach to, well, everything! That being said, how is it at all possible or probable to please everyone, every time? It’s not. It’s as simple as that. The very best, and frankly all, we can do is be ourselves. Be kind, be spirited, be authentic; offer up the best version of ourselves to the world and to others, and have our own backs. You be the one to approve and accept yourself, every single time. That way, if others don’t, you have the most important person on your side…you.