From a very early age we are immersed into the culture of measuring up. We fight to find our niche where we can say we are the best, or at least be one of them. In school we even labeled the groups: nerds, jocks, band geeks, dopers, etc.
If we didn’t measure up, then we found the group we wanted to measure up to and followed them around. This level is called being a “wannabe.” How do we become a member of the group? Easy, dress like them, talk like them, act like them, and like the same things they like.
It doesn’t stop in high school or college. Even into adulthood you are constantly judged by how you look, what you wear, the things you say, the people you hang out with, the amount of money you make, and the list goes on and on.
There is nothing wrong with dressing nicely, choosing a group to hang out with, or making money. It becomes an issue when you are doing it because you want to impress someone else.
Measuring up to other people’s expectations is exhausting. At first we like the reward we receive for jumping through those hoops, but there is just no way to sustain that kind of activity long term. Eventually you will let them down. It’s inevitable. We can only pretend for so long, and in the end we find ourselves exhausted, making mistakes.
When we finally “mess up” there are several typical behaviors:
Defensiveness: This is the when we point out all the great things we did before we messed up. By doing this we are trying to convince them, and ourselves, that we aren’t the piece of crap we feel like we are.
Blame: At this stage we accuse someone else for forcing us to do this ridiculous behavior. If they would just accept us for who we are, or if they would stop demanding that we do things a certain way then we wouldn’t have messed up in the first place.
Anger: This can be aggressive or passive aggressive. At this stage people will throw things, scream, or simply walk away. There is nothing else to do, so we might as well throw a good temper tantrum.
Apologizing: This stage sounds good, and it feels good too. The problem is that most of the time we are apologizing for our defensiveness, blaming or angry outbursts. The real issue hasn’t been dealt with, and we will probably find ourselves back in this same routine in the near future.
Sound familiar? Let me ask you a question: What would your life be like if you didn’t have to measure up to the expectations of others? I am not talking about anarchy or disobeying laws. I am referring to those unwritten rules that we think people have in order to accept us.
I asked several of my clients this questions and their response surprised me. It was much more emotional than I expected. Some of them sighed like the biggest weight had been lifted off their shoulders. Others said, “It would be great!”
A corporate executive sighed and said, “I wouldn’t even begin to know how to think that way.” My response was, “Would you like to?” He was so excited by the end of the call; the impossible was finally within reach.
What would your life be like if you could just be you? How would you feel? Would your level of life satisfaction increase?
If you find yourself stuck in the rut of pleasing others, find a coach that can help you make the move from “please others” to “caring about others.” Before long you will find yourself living life again, instead of just existing.