I am trying to be less of a “people pleaser” but it is hard when, for decades, I have derived so much of my worth in other peoples opinions of me. I know, intellectually, that I need to be true to myself, and yet, it is still hard for me, emotionally, to let go of the impulse to have others like me. Do you have any advice? Does Judaism?
My daughter came home from preschool yesterday and, over dinner, confessed that she was acting bossy towards another child at play time. Dan and I reminded her of Rabbi Hillel’s lesson about treating others as she’d wish to be treated herself - a teaching she is quite familiar with - and she agreed to do better the next day. But, inside, a part of me rejoiced replacing the word bossy with leader. I was a painfully shy child, and struggled to assert myself in appropriate ways, let alone “boss” anyone else around.
There is a certain pride in raising a girl who defies the “quiet, sweet” description that followed me through grade school. So what?, I thought, Not everyone will like her! No one interesting is liked by everyone!
And, yet, she will not be happy if the other kids don’t want to play with her. There is a balance, and I wrestle with this as you do.
I appreciate the opportunity to examine your question through the lens of Judaism because the only thing that immediately came to mind was the aforementioned Hillel teaching, which strikes me as less about “people pleasing” then cultivating a principle of respect and mutuality with others and the world.
So I looked over the commandments - well, the first 10, at least. And they are decidedly not focused on people pleasing either.
This is one of the reasons Judaism resonates so strongly for me - we are charged - in those commandments - to develop a relationship with God, to sanctify our lives, and to abide by actions that enable others to do the same.
And, yet, the desire to be liked, to derive affirmation from other people, is so real, even though we have little - if any - control over what anyone else thinks or feels.
Judaism asks us to infuse our lives with holy actions. The good news, Trying, is that when you engage in this process and surround yourself with what truly matters to you, acceptance and approval flows organically. True, it might not flow from as many people. But it won't matter as much. It is not easy to break behaviors, especially ones of many years, but you are trying, Trying. This is worth so much.