Step 1: Try to please everyone.
Do you remember that scene from F.R.I.E.N.D.S when Rachel’s mother behaves outright rude with Monica for a minor (and unintended) lapse, yet Monica continues to apologize profusely and disproportionately to her? There are people who can remain impervious to others’ opinions of them. I am not one of them and have an innate need to please everybody, avoid conflicts and fall-outs. It would be sheer idiocy to actualize my desire and I succeed in not being a ‘Monica‘ when it involves people whose actions or thoughts I detest strongly. I turn completely indifferent to their existence and memories. But when the people I respect and admire harbour a distorted perception of me owing to misunderstandings or miscommunication, I worry myself sick about setting things right. I would fret about where I had gone wrong, apologize continuously, take repeated initiatives to sort things out, and allow them to stamp all over my dignity by giving undue importance to their (lack of) response. It would torture me to wonder how I am being perceived, and in my restlessness, contribute negatively to that distorted image by offering unnecessary justifications. Recently I went through a similar situation and it disturbed me a lot. Between the two of us, the generous share of wisdom belongs to my younger sister and I often look to her for advice.
Sis: Why do you care so much about what others think of you?
Me: I don’t know. I can’t help it.
Sis: Then prepare yourself for a lifetime of self-induced tragedy.
Me: How do I get out of this need to seek everyone’s approval?
Sis: Seek approval of only those who matter to you and for whom you matter. Judge yourself if a person falls in that category. If no, don’t think about it again. If yes, try to sort out any misunderstandings or apologize appropriately and genuinely for any lapses. If they don’t acknowledge or appreciate your efforts, don’t go overboard by giving others the power to hurt you.
Me: I was being an idiot, wasn’t I?
Sis: A first-rate one.
Sis: There’s no use wasting your mental peace over unnecessary issues. But also keep in mind how you are quick to shed off excess baggage of certain people and fussy about who you let into your life. Sometimes people might be selective about letting you into their lives too, and it might not be because you had done something ‘wrong’. Accept that.
Me: *big kiss*
It won’t be easy to change overnight, but I have to learn to let go of my need to please all those whom I had let into my life. That is the basic requirement to preserve my sanity.
As if on cue, I stumbled upon this wonderful children’s book by Plath as an “an admonition against the perilous preoccupation with other people’s opinions“.