Updated: Oct 14, 2021
When I was a young adult, like many of us, I was a voracious people pleaser. The perception that I pleased someone gave me such a good feeling, a spring in my step, my own stamp of approval. It was so much a part of me that I couldn’t even detect it. I simply engaged in that behavior habitually, reaped the benefits as much as I could, and set out to repeat the experience, over and over again.
It wasn’t until my late 20s, after I had started meditating, that I became curious about what was going on. I noticed that I didn’t feel the depth of fulfillment in connecting with other people that I inherently sensed was possible. I began to become skeptical about my intentions and desires towards other people and their approval. As I looked more closely, I became astonished at what I discovered about myself.
I noticed that when I would encounter another person, I subconsciously had a specific plan. My subconscious plan was that I would present a set of qualities, behaviors and affects. In return, I would anticipate from them another set of qualities, behaviors and affects. If the exchange went according to my plan, in the end, I would release a flood of good feelings within myself. “They like me! I have pleased them! I am all the good qualities in this world! I am awesome!” Those words didn’t come through my mind consciously, but that was the general subconscious feeling. I would feel happiness, well-being, cheerfulness and joy streaming through me.
Conversely, if the plan did NOT work out, if I did not present my qualities, behaviors and affects “well enough,” or if the person did NOT provide their set of qualities, behaviors and affects in a manner sufficient enough to activate my good feelings, oh boy… the results were abysmal. Essentially, if the plan went awry, I would release feelings within my self that were SO low, SO terrible…a complete Users/Losers Guide to the Lower-End-of-the-Emotional-Scale, Tour for Dummies Worldwide Voyage. LOL! It was so painful! I would feel shame, self-contempt, angst, sadness. I would beat myself up, and then straighten myself out, with a renewed fervor for being as perfect as possible for future encounters. Always refining, always “improving,” to say and do JUST THE RIGHT THING at all times. I was determined to NEVER feel this low again; If only I could get it right every time.
Zoinks! How EXHAUSTING!
After I discovered this about myself, I started to look at the whole situation as though it were this Bizarre Love Triangle. I wanted my own self-approval. I would set my sites on someone to manipulate into showing me certain qualities, behaviors and affects. If they would just SHOW THAT TO ME, then I could release the good feelings of self-approval. See the triangle there? Pretend the button is on my arm. I could just press the button on my arm and have the good feelings right?!?! But no! I must manipulate this person, persuade them to show me the signs of approval and THEN I can press the button! And THEN I can feel the good feelings! And the other button, the button that released the horrible feelings, was on my other arm, haunting me.
When I caught on to the fact that I had a “release the good feelings button” and a “release the bad feelings button” completely within my own control, I saw that the other person had absolutely nothing to do with how I felt. I could press my “feel good” button whenever I wanted, how ever much I wanted. So why was I doing that bull-dookie charade? The answer? Social conditioning. It was all an illusion created from false information by misinformed people who influenced me as a child. And they were functioning/malfunctioning under the same faulty premise.
At that time, I was a Zen Buddhist Monastic. While staying at the monastery we were instructed to “keep custody of the eyes.” Meaning you did not look at anyone, ever. And no one ever looked at you. We lived in silence. The only conversation happened with the guide or during working meditation if you needed guidance about a particular task. I didn’t realize how much respite I would find within these parameters. The Zen monks refer to this as “the Privileged Environment.” And after experiencing it, I see how accurate that phrase really is! To have no one looking at you, thinking about you, gossiping about you, judging/criticizing… to be invisible and to get to know yourself when no one is watching! Wow! Truly a privilege indeed.
I no longer participate in any Bizarre Love Triangles. My “feel good about myself” button is set to automatic feed all day every day. And the “feel bad about myself” button is completely dismantled and the parts have been repurposed for my automatic pooper-scooper for my four dogs. ;P LOL!
The bottom line is, it is only WE who control how WE feel. And once we get that, it doesn’t matter what anyone EVER thinks, says, or does. I have told my friends many times, “Look, you could spit at me and tell me you hate my guts and I will smile, nod, and skip away merrily on to the next fun adventure!” I tell them that so they know they can’t hurt my feelings. So they never have to pussyfoot around me! But hell, it doesn’t matter what I say. They’re gonna pussyfoot if they’ve got those people pleasing buttons and that’s none of my business either. I’m just so happy to be free, to be loving me, unconditionally, yes indeedy. (Yes that was a poem.)
I love LoA and I love YOU! Thanks for reading!