Good News for Perpetual People-Pleasers and Cookie Bakers

You know who I’m talking about. (I mean “those of whom I speak.”)

Those of us who have devoted much of our lives to making other people happy. Those of us who relish pleasing other people.

That desire to serve other people is actually and truly a noble thing. Admirable and humane in the highest sense of the word.

The thing is, if you attach all of your own happiness to the reactions of certain people in your life, you have set yourself up for failure.

If you can do something for another person, something you don’t HAVE to do, motivated only by the joy of doing it, you will not have a problem with feeling unappreciated.

Here’s an example of how I was confused about pleasing people and manipulating people.

When I was married, my dear husband used to travel a lot internationally. The children and I were always so excited when he would return, eager to hear all of his fabulous stories.

On one occasion, I decided that I was going to thrill  him by baking chocolate-chip cookies, and I timed it so they would be fresh out of the oven when he arrived. I knew he was going to be so delighted with this awesome gift of mine.

Only he wasn’t.

He breezed in, kissed me and went to find the children. The cookies were mentioned in passing, as in “Oh, those look great!” But that was not the reaction I wanted.

I wanted praise and recognition for this incredible gift of love.

It’s kind of like the last time I lived in Venezuela. My maid would bring me coffee each morning at 10. I didn’t really want the coffee at that time of day, but she seemed so pleased with herself for doing that for me, that I always thanked her.

So, was I wrong to bake the cookies? Of course not, the only thing that messed up was having expectations of a specific reaction. I love baking so if I had just made them for the sake of the pleasure of doing so, I would have saved myself from feeling unappreciated.

Does this sort of thing ever happen to you?

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3 responses to “Good News for Perpetual People-Pleasers and Cookie Bakers

  1. Love this! It is so true! If you are expecting other people to react a certain way and they don’t you feel so defeated and yet you still want credit for the hard work. They didn’t ask you to do anything so they don’t understand why you’re upset. Can you say p-r-o-j-e-c-t-i-n-g?

  2. Oh my! How true this is. It’s like when you buy what you think is the PERFECT gift for someone and they say simply, “thank you” – no gushing praises of how wonderfully thoughtful blah blah blah We create these fantasies, no matter how big or how small, and are disappointed when the fantasy doesn’t come true. But you know what? Fantasies are still fun!

  3. Thanks, Carrie and Sally! Great points about projection and the joy of anticipation. If the gift recipient doesn’t respond with the emotion we would like, we can always interpret that as “Maybe she’s just shy about showing her excitement.” You never know what’s going on in people’s heads!

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