When Theodore Bagwell said that, “We are captives of our own identities, living in prisons of our own creation,” he spoke words that would prove to be both applicable and perplexing for hundreds of years to come. Too often human beings say or do things so that other people will like them—or love them—rather than because they genuinely want to do these things. We shouldn’t feel selfish for putting our own needs first a significant amount of the time, and we shouldn’t feel guilty for saying “no” when we know it’s the right answer to provide. If individuals become fixated on people-pleasing, they can easily become numb, aloof, and sometimes even emotionless without even realizing it.
Following society’s expectations too closely can prevent people from behaving as themselves under the false belief that doing so will lead to happiness and success simply because “it is the right thing to do.” In fact, oftentimes this type of philosophy and behavior results in the exact opposite of positive and productive consequences. Pleasing others can enable individuals to cope with life for a while, but eventually, we have to please ourselves in order to please ourselves. This means shifting from seeking attention and approval to being able to accept criticism from both the kindest and unkindest of individuals; then you will be able to realize that being a good person is more complex that in initially seems, and that words and actions must stem from genuine feelings rather than guilt or inadequacy in order to be pure and truly “good.”
Please read the list below for more specific details on how to transition from being traditionally selfless to being modern-day self-full.
#1: Accept that other people are responsible for their own selves.
Although it’s certainly OK to help other people solve their problems, it’s not OK to feel responsible for solving most other people’s problems. Additionally, it is great to attempt to make other people feel better when they are experiencing difficulties, but we should not feel obligated to do so (or “bad” for not doing so, or for not being able to do so). There is no need to take on the anxiety of most other individuals; what’s more, if you do so, you may actually be preventing them from learning from their experiences—or from learning how to live through their experiences—which could very well hinder or cripple them later in life.
#2: Avoid being an unofficial peacekeeper.
Being the neighborhood peacekeeper will frequently result in selfish people flocking toward you, and you will oftentimes be expected to sort out many of the disagreements and debts that exist amongst these people. However, even if you successfully keep or make peace, it’s likely that at least 50% of the people involved will be unhappy with you, and it’s even possible that 100% of the people involved will resent you; it’s been said many times that in any good deal, neither side walks away happy.
#3: Realize that there are significant consequences to seeking approval.
If you experience more than your fair share of criticism and rejection in life, it will be impossible for you to genuinely live a life at all. You will find that you are constantly contemplating what the right thing to say or do is, and even what the right thing to say or do will be (or would be in any given number of potential situations). What’s more, criticism will start to make you feel like a bad person—until you eventually discover that seeking approval from yourself is by far the best strategy to employ.
#4: Fully transform from old school selflessness to new school self-fullness.
Once you realize that not valuing yourself will cause virtually all of your relationships to suffer—romantic and otherwise—you should be well on your way to transformation. You’ll also have to truly comprehend that prioritizing your needs before most other people’s will help everyone more in the long-run; this will strengthen your relationships as opposed to weakening or breaking them.
While you’re attempting to fully transform, don’t be afraid to implement trial and error; you’ll never feel truly alive until you make countless mistakes and incorrect decisions. All other points aside, a human being should live their life the way they want to live it (as long as doing so doesn’t significantly negatively impact anyone else’s life). It will be next to impossible to be happy and successful if you spend too much time and energy managing other people’s happiness and success in addition to your own—or aside from your own.
*This content was inspired by an amazing article that can be found here.