Friday, October 09, 2009

People Pleaser?

I think one reason it has been difficult for me to find my true beliefs and desires is that I tend to be a people pleaser, sometimes. Sometimes I want to debate and offend everyone, but other times I just want everyone to like me, and I think that if I agree with them, they’ll be my friend! In reality, that’s probably not even true, because most of my friends and acquaintances are confident and outspoken and would probably rather hear my true feelings and debate with me than have me agree with everything they say. And they are mature enough that they can still be my friend despite serious differences. And if they couldn’t do that, they’re probably not the right friend for me. But nevertheless, sometimes I just want to be agreeable. Or maybe I’m just spineless? That’s a possibility.

Another possibility is that because my experiences have been varied, I can truthfully agree with opposing viewpoints:

“Oh, you’re a raw vegan?” ME TOO!!
“Oh, you eat traditional foods, including lots of animal products?” ME TOO!
Both of those are true, or have been true, or at least I like the ideas. I haven’t decided which way I want to eat, so I really do agree with proponents of most diets (diet as in ‘way of life’ not ‘temporary/unsustainable plan to achieve weight loss’).

“Oh, you are a true believer and you really do believe that everything we are taught is literally true?” ME TOO!
“Oh, you have so many doubts that it even goes as far as wondering if God exists?” ME TOO!
I have felt both ways, sometimes all in the same day.

Another possibility is that I’m empathetic or sympathetic. I’d like to think I have those qualities. But maybe I have too much of them. When someone tells me their opinion, I try to see the benefits or positives of it, and I sometimes ignore the negatives. So if two people have opposing views, I can see the positives of both sides, and I think I agree with both sides.

I guess I’m just a walking contradiction!

So I started thinking of ways to be sure that I am making my OWN decisions (on religion, diet, and other societal issues like wearing makeup and dressing fashionably) and not trying to please anyone else. Of course I need to keep my kids in mind when I make decisions, but other than that, I really don’t need to worry about what anyone else will think.

I decided to imagine myself all alone, living in the wilderness. I wanted to imagine how I would feel, making decisions for only myself. What would I do? What would I believe? It was lots of fun to think about, but I don’t think that the exercise served the purpose I thought it would.

I pictured myself constantly on the move, walking through meadows, wandering through forests, swimming in my lake, gardening in my square foot gardens. Sometimes I would be inside my cabin, cooking or cozied up in a blanket in front of a fire, reading, doing some handwork, or just rocking and thinking.

My hair would be down loose and wild and flowing all around me, or sometimes subdued in two French braids. Clothes would be solely for warmth or to prevent injury. I would wear long, flowy dresses or funky long johns from Hanna Anderson.

I would never wear anything restrictive or uncomfortable (nylons, bras, tight shoes). Shoes would be something moccasin-like – soft and flexible. I wouldn’t shave or wear makeup. Bathing and hair washing would be accomplished with frequent swims in a beautiful clean lake (this is my fantasy world; there’s no animal poop in this lake).

I would grow a huge garden and gather nuts and berries and anything else I could find. I couldn’t decide if I’d be able to kill any animals come winter time. I imagined that I wouldn’t have electricity, so it’d be difficult to preserve enough vegetable food for winter.

I pictured myself communing with God and nature every moment of the day, but religion suddenly became meaningless. When you’re the only one in existence, good works become irrelevant. Since I was the only one, God would commune with me directly – there would be no scriptures, no ordinances, no temples, no meetings, no advocacy, no fighting evil, nothing.

And there’s where my vision broke down.

I realized that even though it was fun to imagine, this exercise would not assist me in the slightest in figuring out how I want to function in real life, particularly with regard to religion, but with the societal questions as well. In real life, there are other people around. Even if I could, I don’t want to be a hermit. Society affects us, whether we want it to or not. If I went to a professional job interview looking the way I looked in my vision, I probably wouldn’t get the job, even though I fit in very well in the forest.

But most of all, the religion part of real life is different. To me, the ultimate point of religion and spirituality is how we treat others. Every single part of religion does or should point back to how we treat others. In my vision, religion became meaningless because there was no one to help, comfort, uplift, encourage, or love. So basically, this daydream did nothing to help me decide what I want to or should believe or think. But it was fun to imagine. And I’d definitely like to include some of the elements I imagined in my ultimate plan for my life.

My daydream definitely helped remind me that it really is my ultimate goal to treat others kindly. I have a major struggle with this. My first impulse is to be sarcastic and critical. My desire is to be kind and encouraging, to be the person that everyone feels loved by.

In the past I’ve struggled with my beliefs because I wasn’t sure what my measuring stick was. What do I hold up each belief next to, to see if it measures up? Is it the Book of Mormon? Is it the Bible? Is it a Conference talk? What? I realize now that ‘treating others well’ is a great measuring stick. I need to refine that a bit, and define exactly how I want to treat others. Some things can’t be completely measured by that one criteria, but I think it’s a good start.

And I think I’m going to end this here, because I’m not really sure where to go with it now.


Ramon said...

Nice dream, but why can't you at least enjoy part of it. That is why there is retirement, to enjoy part of your dream. My dream includes a double-wide on 20 acres, far away from large cities, but a college is within a 30 minute drive so that I can still teach and influence young minds. That isn't so bad is it? I don't think it will happen anytime soon, but again, it doesn't mean I can't dream. Don't be a people pleaser, tell me how I'm full of crap of something. Use your voice!

Katie said...

Oh, I definitely plan on living it out (most parts of it, ha ha). I seem to have gravitated to like-minded people. I can think of at least 4 or 5 friends who want to live on some land and be self-sufficient to some degree. I absolutely plan on that. I'd like it to be before retirement though, if it works out that way. There's a lady at my company who just moved to Mount Pleasant. Crappy commute, but I guess it works for her.

You know you are full of crap, so I don't have to tell you :-D

It's hard (for me) to balance using my voice with treating people kindly!

Chandelle said...

This was a beautiful exercise; I'm glad you shared it. It sounds like you've come to somewhat the same conclusion as I did, wandering down the path of apostasy. :D Compassion is all that matters, and integrity, honesty.

I like it when you challenge me. Actually, I hate it! Because you make me really work for my opinions, and that's hard. But it's good for me.

It's been my ongoing, never-ending battle for the past several years to have my own ideas alongside empathy and compassion for other points of view. I've largely destroyed at least one relationship because of my stridency. Coming out of the Church helped me a lot, actually, though I know this is not others' experience. For me, it was very humbling to realize that *any* strong belief I currently hold could be completely wrong, or at least not always the right one for me. Now I try to consider everything from that rubric and to hold somewhat tentatively to my ideas. Partly, I've decided that I don't really need to be confident or outspoken about it - I don't always need to prove everyone wrong or be the smartest person in the room, which was really my intent for a long time.

Katie said...

"I don't always need to prove everyone wrong or be the smartest person in the room, which was really my intent for a long time."

WELLLLLLL, maybe it's good that we never met in person, then! HAHA!!

Simply Mother said...

I totally get the walking contradiction part. I think it comes with being analytical, and yes, probably empathetic too. Do you feel like you can really FEEL where other people are coming from? As a kid, I had the weirdest ideas along the lines of "every person is really everyone else." I'm trying to come up with words to explain that but I really can't. I had it all worked out very logically in my 7-year-old mind, though, let me tell you.

GoddessofBirth said...

Yes, I think that in the end all that matters is compassion.

Katie said...

C -
"every person is really everyone else."

I think Steve Pavlina is a bit of a nutcase, but I REALLY like this post, and it addresses exactly what you're talking about:
The principles in this post are my goals for all relationships (this is not about romantic relationships)

alisaterry said...

This is a very poignant post. Why can't you be comfortable, serene, natural and have moments of solitude, and still live in community with others?

Katie said...

"be comfortable, serene, natural and have moments of solitude, and still live in community with others?"

This is my goal (depending on what you mean by 'in community')! I am a hermit, and I don't like it. That's why the dream broke up - because being *completely* alone would not be my ideal. I loved the community in your book, but I'm not sure that I would want to live that close to people. I'm not sure. Usually when I imagine my ideal, I only see my house, with none around it. I want solitude AND a close-knit community. Agh! Contradictions!!!

Melissa said...

Thanks for sharing this post. I found it a great exercise in honesty. I want to recommend a book to you--It's called Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute. It's an excellent book about relationships and how to see people as people. I too struggle with some of the same things. We've just gotta keep working on ourselves and I think we'll make it ;) Thanks for sharing.


Katie said...

I've heard of Bonds that Make Us Free and Leadership and Self-Deception from the Arbinger Institute, but I hadn't heard of this one before, I don't think. I will keep it in mind!