Interacting with other people is, inherently, very complicated. To be in community with others can be both a blessing and a curse; let me explain. Not everyone you meet is going to be “for” you. This realization, for me (a habitual people-pleaser) was a difficult one.
No matter how hard you try, there are going to be people who simply do not like you. It might be your appearance- maybe you remind them of someone negative from the past. It might be your voice; perhaps it’s a touch too high for their taste. It might be your nose, perhaps it is narrow, and reminds them of Aunt Spiker from James and the Giant Peach (one of my favorite childhood novels). It might be for one of a million reasons, and some (most?) have nothing to do with you.
We feel this in every aspect of our lives; someone doesn’t like how I dress, my parenting style, the groceries in my cart. The healthiest response is to recognize that we cannot control what someone else thinks of us, and allow those words to fall right off of us.
For many of us, including medicine, that logic is turned on its head. For some, compensation can be tied to Patient Satisfaction. I argue that this is a dangerous practice for health care; not only is it an exhausting, unhealthy, and impossible task to try to please every person who walks in the door, I believe it is a conflict of interest.
For example; from time to time, we have to give medical advice that patients do not like to hear. I also know that giving this advice may cause them to “rate us lower” in the patient satisfaction scores- thus potentially lowering the provider’s own compensation. Providers have a vested interest in people pleasing, even if we have difficult information to give. This is not only unethical, I believe it contributes significantly to worsened patient outcomes- such as, for example, the opioid crisis.
Medicine is not the only field with this “customer service” policy; but these are reasons that you may find yourself burned out, if you also are a people pleaser, regardless of whether you work, stay at home, or something in between.
How do we decide what’s true about ourselves? For many of us, it is influenced by how we are perceived by the world around us. In this worldview, unless we are pleasing all of the people, all of the time (which is impossible), we will encounter these people who believe negative things, and allow them to have more space in and power over our hearts than they actually deserve. In a given day, we please our bosses, our spouses/loved ones, our parents, our children, our customers…but aren’t we missing someone? What about ourselves?
Perhaps it may seem self-centered, but what I am proposing is not egoism; rather, I am proposing “a centered self.” By knowing what is actually true and important about yourself, you can hold tightly to those truths, rather than be swept up in the fickle winds of popularity. Let go of what everyone else thinks about you, and find out what is true about yourself. We’ve all been told lies by others; some of those lies become written on our hearts, infecting our souls and minds.
Be you, as only you can. Yes, there are flaws, and those are what make us authentic, genuine people. The imperfections and nuances we have give us personality and character. Find your center; remember to be a centered self. After all, a car may have all the potential in the world, but if there is no fuel, it will go nowhere.