Up until recently, I proudly and frequently wore my ‘ I am a nice person’ T shirt, falling over myself to help other people. In a previous blog, I mentioned my quest to stop being such a bloody nice person and ditch, once and for all, this ‘disease to please’
I was still wearing this T shirt a few months ago when I rushed to assist a friend of mine who was suffering from an unexpected illness. Like the good Florence Nightingale I am, I ran frantically to her bedside, spent hours chatting with her about her problems and rushed home each evening to wrap her up in cotton wool and generally look after her emotional and physical needs. Yes, it was exhausting, I must admit, but somewhere deep inside of me, I was worried that if I didn’t do it – that I wouldn’t be seen as being ‘ a nice friend ’ to this person. What ‘ nice’ meant to me’ was being accommodating and obedient to her peoples wishes.
However, the tables were turned several weeks later when it was ME who found myself unexpectedly in hospital for 5 days. I am also not proud to admit, that there was a part of me who expected that the same friend, would return the favor, and help me out in my time of need. I admit, there were moments when I found myself thinking "Surely I'm entitled to something after all I've done for them." The truth of the matter was, that this person was too busy to come for a visit.
Ouch – that hurt!
Being a coach, I was eager to dig a little deeper into my feelings so I started to recall how much the disease to please had cost me in the past and how much it was costing me now. It was slightly disturbing how much effort I had put into gaining this persons approval in the hope that they may like me and see me as a good and caring person!
I also realised how much resentment and disappointment I was holding against this person as I had continually allowed them to disappoint me and let me down for most of the life of our friendship. It made me think of the Law of Diminishing Returns. This is a basic law which goes like this’ The more you do the more other people will expect of you, and the less you get in return’ The result of this law is that you can often end up having your own feelings totally disregarded. …. . After all, 'you must enjoy it or you wouldn't do it'.
Importantly, I also realised how bad this relationship was for me but I had continued to allow it to carry on as I didn’t want to hurt the other persons feelings. I had also continued to seek her approval in the hope that her behaviour towards me may change. Interesting eh – I didn’t want to hurt HER feelings, but I had allowed myself to be hurt and disappointed by this persons actions for over 10 years.
The downside is that I may lose this person out of my life as I stop running myself ragged to service. It also means I will never have their approval but hey, I am fine with that. I am switching from pleasing other people, to happily pleasing myself!