Thursday, November 1, 2007

Pleasing everyone?

An old man, a boy and a donkey were going to town. The boy rode on the donkey and the old man walked. As they went along they passed some people who remarked it was a shame the old man was walking and the boy was riding. The man and boy thought maybe the critics were right, so they changed positions.

Later, they passed some people that remarked, What a shame, he makes that little boy walk. They then decided they both would walk.

Soon they passed some more people who thought they were stupid to walk when they had a decent donkey to ride. So, they both rode the donkey.

Now they passed some people that shamed them by saying how awful to put such a load on a poor donkey. The boy and man said they were probably right, so they decided to carry the donkey. As they crossed the bridge, they lost their grip on the animal and it fell into the
river and drowned.

The moral of the story? If you try to please everyone, you might as well kiss your ass good-bye.

The parable is funny but it also hits close to home. I spent most of my life trying to please others. It never worked, and I would always be filled with resentment when my "good" deeds would go unnoticed or be glossed over. The people pleasing behavior is one of those things that children of alcoholics do well.

I guess that it's not unusual to want to be liked or to please the people that we love or who are important to us. When I was growing up, people pleasing was part of what my parents expected since they were big on manners and diplomacy. But somewhere along the way, I got hooked on this behavior and had this love/hate relationship with being liked.

I knew that I didn't fit in but that would only make me try harder to do so. When I would fail in my attempts at fitting in, I would be angry for a while and then I would redouble my efforts to please because the fact that I failed was due to my inability to effectively please others. It was a vicious circle of anger, self-loathing, and unhappiness.

I don't know whether I ended up sacrificing my entire personality for others but I came pretty close to losing myself. What probably saved me is becoming beaten down to the point that I no longer wanted to please anyone, not even myself. I just gave up which is what brought me to Al-Anon. I finally realized that my way wasn't working and that I had no control over anyone or anything.

I'd like to say that I no longer want to please. But there are times when I'm around the people that I love that I know I'm willing to do favors, help out, or go the extra mile. I have to stop myself from taking over someone's responsibilities. I have to keep my mouth shut and mind my own business. Even if it means the other person falls flat.

I now know that my friendship and love is enough. I don't have to give gifts all the time or take people places or do any of the other things that I would do whether I really wanted to or not. I realize that I deserve to have friends and healthy relationships. And I don't have to volunteer for things at work because others look to me to take up the slack. I can just say NO.


  1. thanks for letting me know I am not alone.

  2. I can really relate to this and am working very hard at not feeling the need to volunteer for everything or feel responsible. And to be less concerned with what's going on outside and more concerned with what's going on inside. Takes a lot of practice and my sponser is really helpful in this regard. As are you. You know, screw guilt:)

  3. i've given up loooong ago trying to please everyone. it is simply impossible!!!!

    have a good weekend. sailing presumably?!?!?

  4. Thanks for reminding me how far I have to go.
    Thanks a lot.


  5. oh how I could relate to the story----I lost my ass many many times

    Yeah today I live differently cause I have a new design for living and oh how very grateful I am

  6. I really related to this story. I've come a long way in that department, I still have a ways to go. I used to feel good at first, in pleasing people, then I would be left with that empy feeling, & sometimes angry. I gave up myself more than once, especially in intimate relationships. Part of the problem was that I didn't know what I wanted, or know myself. I'm getting to know myself better, therefore don't sell myself short. Thanks for the post, it's a good reminder, where I came from, & am still learning.


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