One thing I envy about my husband is his assertiveness. He is what I would call the opposite of a people pleaser. He does not care about fitting in or saying the “right” thing. He is hard fast in following his own set of rules and is not swayed by others’ opinions. The song lyrics, “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything,” by Aaron Tippin suits my husband well. He is by no means the type of person to just tell you what you want to hear and I am pretty sure he has made that clear about 20 thousand times over the many years that I have known him. I can hear him now… “I am not going to tell you what you want to hear. I am going to tell you what you need to hear.” This probably sounds familiar to anyone who has any type of relationship with my husband whether it be personal or professional.
Sometimes I wish I could be more like that. If that were the case, I would probably live a much healthier life all together. I know that it is great to consider others and try our best to not be insensitive or unkind, but there is a point where it becomes unhealthy when we are neglecting our own feelings and needs just to please others.
The stress and anxiety that comes along with every potential “no” that may have to leave my lips is gut wrenching at times. I hate feeling like I am letting anyone down and it doesn’t even matter if I know you. If you ask me for a favor, my natural inclination is to say, “yes.” I quickly agree to almost anything even when I know that I am stretching myself too thin.
After being married to my polar opposite when it comes to this personality trait, I am well aware that I need to establish better boundaries. But that leads me to the question: Is it actually a personality trait or is this something we are perhaps unintentionally instilled with during childhood?
I feel like it is natural for young children to want to please their parents or teachers MOST of the time. I mean wouldn’t it be nice if every time you ask your kid to do something, they immediately go do it without you having to ask 10 times?
There must be a way to find a good balance between aggressiveness and passiveness though, right? I have said this time and time again, but I feel that our primary duty as a parent is to make sure our kids grow up to be assertive, self-assured, independent adults. So, the question remains, how do we as parents make sure that we aren’t raising people pleasers if it is indeed something that is instilled during childhood and not just some part of our individual personalities?
This may be a better question for my husband to answer, but I will give it a go.
I think by highlighting the fact that “fitting in” is overrated. Even though I am a recovering people pleaser I have always stood firm in this fact. By allowing your kids to embrace their individuality, you let them know it is okay to not be liked and accepted by everyone they meet.
I also think that just simply paying attention and giving them your individual time when they desire to be seen or heard may eliminate them either acting out or trying to seek your approval and praise.
But most importantly, we must be an example. Our kids pay attention to everything we do and say. If you have mistakenly let a not so nice word leave your mouth in front of a two-year-old, then you know this to be true. A huge part of them learning healthy boundaries will come from witnessing you, as a parent, setting those same boundaries for yourself.
Walk the walk and talk the talk.
(Paige Nash is a wife, mother of three, publisher of Bienville Parish Journal and Claiborne Parish Journal and a digital journalist for Webster Parish Journal.)