Lately, I've spent a lot time thinking about people-pleasing.
It's been a rough couple of months at work and everyone is on edge, myself included. Friday afternoon, I pushed back against a coworker who was trying to take advantage of my helpful nature. By all logic, it's what needed to be done to keep myself from being walked all over. His excuse of ignorance of never having done this type of work in the past doesn't mean that it's suddenly my responsibility. It was his job to either learn how to do it himself, talk to his team about who does this type of work for them, or, if in a real pinch, ask me as a favor. If he had asked for help, I would have helped. But he didn't. He assumed it was my job to do his work, which it isn't. And to top it off, he tried to make it look like I wasn't doing my job to my team and I stood up for myself.
However, afterward, my hands were shaking. And it's been the only thing on my mind all weekend. I stood up for myself and this coworker probably doesn't like me anymore. Now, I keep rationalizing it every way possible. Why should I care if this guy likes me? I shouldn't like him. I was protective myself from someone overstepping. Anyone else in the same situation would have stood up for themselves so why do I feel bad? I shouldn't care.
But the truth is part of me cares. Some portion of me deep down cares what other people think. I have absolutely no problem speaking my mind to people close to me, but acquaintances and strangers are a different story. I have never sent back food at a restaurant. I make eye contact and smile at strangers even though I don't really want to. The contractors failed to clean up after themselves when they built the shop, but rather than yell at them and get them back to finish, I spent days sullenly bagging rusty nails and wire clippings they left in our driveway.
And beyond the part of me that cares what people think, a whole different part of me worries that this people-pleasing fear will hold me back. That it will keep me from rising up the ranks. How can a leader be afraid to make the tough calls? And more importantly, how can I be expected to stand up for other people if standing up for myself makes me this anxious?
The only thing that makes sense to me is that it's OK to care. It's not a bad thing to care about upsetting other people. Maybe it gets easier to handle with time and experience, but wouldn't it be a worse thing if I didn't care about upsetting people? All these motivational quotes about how you shouldn't care about what other people think doesn't make that feeling suddenly vanish. I have to imagine it's like public speaking: it's always slightly terrifying, but it gets easier and that anxious feeling deep down doesn't last as long.
At least that's what I hope...