You Can’t Please Everyone…

IMG_0115As we all know, some days are better than others.  Some days flow smoothly, with everything going according to plan, and leaving us feeling competent and content.  Other days are much more trying, hitting us with one unexpected problem after another, each one more urgent and dire than the one before.   We scramble to keep up, to fix everything as quickly as we can, but it feels as if we are trying to bail out a leaking, sinking canoe with nothing more than a thimble.  And just when we think we’ve pulled it off, just when we think we’ve solved all the problems and fixed all the issues, someone is kind enough to point out the one thing we missed, or the one thing we did wrong.   I don’t know about you, but when that happens to me, I don’t handle it well.

My initial reaction is rarely to thank them for pointing out what I missed, or where I messed up.  I’m too busy feeling hurt, angry and defensive.  Don’t they know that I was doing my best?  Don’t they know how hard I was trying to do all that was asked of me, and to make everybody happy?  Why can’t they just say, “Thanks for all you did,” and leave it at that?  Because, darn it all, I really was trying!  And so I rage for a while, thinking of sharp retorts, perhaps venting to a friend or relative, or even (when I’m feeling particularly vulnerable), having a good cry.

Later, when I’ve calmed down, I often wonder why I let myself get so upset by a bit of criticism, especially when I know that it wasn’t intended to be hurtful.  It’s taken more than half of my life, but I think I’ve finally figured out the answer.  I don’t get upset because I think I’m a perfect person who never makes mistakes.  I’m well aware of my lousy memory, how often I make mistakes, and all my other shortcomings.  The reason I get so upset is because I was trying so very hard to please other people, and one of them took the trouble to let me know that I failed.

Which means the real problem isn’t that I make mistakes, or that I can’t fix everything all the time, or that I don’t always reach my goals.  The real problem is that I am putting too much value on what other people think of me and my efforts.  In other words, I’m not focusing on fixing the problems; I’m focusing on pleasing the people who are telling me about the problems instead.  And all too often, that attitude just sets me up for failure.  Seeking validation from others almost always does.

Slowly, very slowly, I’m learning to judge my accomplishments according to my own values, and to stop seeking the constant approval of other people.  Of course it’s nice when someone takes the time to tell me that I’ve done a good job, or to let me know they appreciated my efforts, even when the result was less than what we had hoped for.  But that has got to stop being the measuring stick I use when I determine my own self-worth.

When I know that I have done my best, in any given situation, I need to let that be good enough and be satisfied with my efforts, even when someone else thinks I should have done better.  I am never going to live up to everyone else’s standards, all the time, any more than they are always going to live up to mine. And in the end, it’s what I think of myself that matters the most.


36 thoughts on “You Can’t Please Everyone…

  1. I think you should print this out and keep it with so you can read your passionate words whenever you feel this way again, because you will forget..we all do..:)
    Someone told me long ago that people won’t always remember what you’ve done for them but they will remember what you didn’t do. I dismissed that comment at first but the more time that passed the more I realized he wasn’t that far off.
    My guess is you’re a very kind and considerate person who ways tries to do the right thing. Knowing that about yourself should ways be enough..:)

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s a good idea, because you are right in that I will forget this again, despite my best intentions. And isn’t it odd how we tend to focus on the negative rather than the positive, both in ourselves and in others? But thank you, as always, for the encouraging words. I’m often not nearly as kind and considerate as I want to be, but I do try to do what I believe is right. And there are times when that just has to be enough, if only I can remember it….

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this post very much Ann. I think I like it because I’ve similar feelings and anxiety about my reaction to certain remarks. I also think it’s because of my sensitivity as well. I think you’re able to pick up on the energy in which the remark was said. Eventhough the words may not have been that bad when you think about it later but it’s the energy in which was said in the moment may have caused some slight irritation. It nice to hear someone talked so eloquently about these nuances that we can all relate to. I second guess my reactions at times. Sometimes I think I never reacted enough or I over reacted. You’re a wonderful human being Ann!
    Stay well

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good point, Deanne. I think sometimes I over react to criticism because I am reacting to the attitude of the person who is criticizing. Sometimes someone can point out a very big mistake that I have made, but they do it in such a way that I don’t react negatively at all…often, we laugh about it, or I just apologize and fix the problem. Other times, someone points out a slight oversight and I’m feeling all angry or wounded, but in this cases, maybe their intent was, in a very small way, to be a little bit hurtful. That’s something to think about. But I still don’t want to be so dependent on other people’s approval, and that’s something I need to work on.
      Thanks for the insight, Deanne! I think you’re a wonderful person, too! Also sensitive, kind, and talented!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a true and honest post Ann. I think we’re all guilty of trying to please everyone and feeling not good enough but like you as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that doing our best is enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, this post really only relates to relationships and interactions outside of the workforce. When the criticism is from bosses or coworkers, it’s a whole different story. Sadly, working in that kind of poisonous environment is so counterproductive. I think workers become so focused on avoiding criticism that they aren’t innovative, because trying something new or making a suggestion can jeopardize their job. That’s so wrong….

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, we do! But sometimes I think we have to learn to appreciate ourselves. When it comes from others, then it’s just an nice extra. And maybe it also helps us remember to be sure to let the other people in our lives know we appreciate them.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s hard isn’t it?? Even deciding to leave this job is tough because I feel I’m letting others down. Jeepers, who cares? I don’t even know these people! But it’s the same thing…we care about what others feel about us. It’s because, Ann, we are decent people and therefore are concerned about others and how we may make them feel…. I’m learning too to worry more about me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So right there with you on this! I am much better than I used to be even two years ago. I realized about ten years ago how much I worried about what others thought rather than what was right for me. I realized I was worrying too much about what others thought when they certainly didn’t care about what I thought. It has taken time, but slowly ever so slowly I have learned to ignore that nagging voice in my head that is so negative. I have great fun laughing at myself, too! I’ve always been able to laugh at myself. It’s just when others were “laughing” at me I had an issue. I am happy to say that in a large way I no longer care if they are laughing. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Well written. It’s not easy but in the end you just have to understand that no matter what you do and how hard you try there will always be someone to comment about something. Knowing who you are and that you did the best it’s all that matters. Even if you make mistakes…so what? That’s how we learn. We all make mistakes.
    The most important thing is to be happy with who you are and know you did the best at that moment. Those who appreciate will be by your side 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! Mistakes are a part of life (and a big part of mine!), but that’s only a problem if we are trying to be perfect, or if we don’t learn from the mistakes. Thanks for the comment!


  7. What more can anybody do but their best? I think if you’ve genuinely given something your best shot, then that has to be enough. (I’m writing this partly as a reminder for myself too. Like you, I have a tendency to get very self-critical if things don’t work out perfectly.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, and I think that’s what sometimes makes criticism (intended or not) from others a bit painful. I feel as if they are just validating my own negative self-judgements. Ultimately, it’s like a two step process: first to learn to not be so self-critical and to realize that I really did my best, and secondly to accept that judgement as the correct one. I’ll get there someday!

      Liked by 2 people

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