During high school, I was surrounded by strange beings called homo sapiens.
Truth be told, I was terrified of them.
These walking, talking, breathing existences looked similar to me, but at the same time, they were so very complex. Each with a persona, a facade, a motive. Some mean you no harm while others seem to live to take advantage and prey on their same kind.
At first, I walled myself out. If these creatures don’t notice me, then no matter how scary they were, no harm would befall me. Right?
But I was envious. Of the laughter, the joy they sometimes exude. I wanted to be accepted too.
So… I studied. Books, articles, videos. Anything I could get my hands on about human interaction.
Respect the other person… listen to them attentively… let them talk about themselves…
Many ways were used. The best thing was, it worked! I developed my own persona. I tailored my actions, my personality to navigate through the maze of social interactions. I was liked, I was accepted.
But along the way, I got lost. Something felt wrong.
I became what was known as a people pleaser, a pushover.
A fatal flaw had been embedded into my personality.
A few weeks ago, after a long period of self-reflection, I found the cause.
I had always outsourced my self-esteem.
All those years ago, when I experimented with various social tips and tricks, I would base my results on the reactions of those around me. What better way to gather data then to gauge how much you were accepted and welcomed others?
Unfortunately, I lost myself, as the entrepreneurs would say, chasing after one single metric. I started to tailor my approach to that single metric, trying to increase my likability.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I gained a lot from the experiment. A lot of them I’m still using nowadays. I can safely say I would not be the person I am today if I hadn't embarked down that journey of changing myself to be more socially accepted.
But I also lost a few things. Among them, respect.
My train of thought during that time was, “ If people enjoy hanging out with me, then I would be accepted.”
I became too kind, too nice. Never refusing a request even at the expense of my own time, energy. All that matters was improving the metric.
But human beings really are strange, scary, complex creatures. Even the nicest, kindest one of them would gradually start to take things for granted.
And I started to feel terrible as well. How I felt was directly at the mercy of other people’s reactions. After all, my self-esteem was based on how they treated me. If they were too cold, too brusque, irritated at me, I would go into a spiral of self-doubt. Then, I would berate myself and try to analyze what went wrong, never occurring to me that their actions might have nothing to do with me.
So, I made a conscious decision once I realized it. I would stop outsourcing my self-esteem.
That doesn't mean ignoring criticisms or feedback. It doesn't mean to be arrogant or headstrong.
It means to realize that your actions and the other person’s reaction may not be perfectly correlated.
It means to put yourself first most of the time.
It means to value yourself — For if you don’t, who would?
The Golden Rule can only be followed up to a certain extant. If taken to an extreme end, it will only be a limiting believe. For you will never rise above those who you are trying to please.
I should note that this does not mean to be an ass, ignoring everybody’s opinion, and doing things my way. It means only selecting those people that I respect as a benchmark for criticisms and feedback.
So if you were like the previous me, stuck in endless cycle of pleasing people, Start consciously telling yourself… that your value is not based on how others perceive you.
Manufacture your own self esteem, don’t outsource it.