The Weekly Dream: People Pleasing 101
“WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!”
-We Wear The Mask, Paul Lawrence Dunbar
“A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways…”
As children, there is tremendous pressure to mute our uniqueness and to blend in seamless. Early on we learn that to be different or to not fit in is a bad thing. Growing up, if you did not have the new Jordans, a Starter jacket and Guess jeans, you were considered a nerd. You would think we would grow out of this habit, but peer pressure and people pleasing are at an all-time high.
In the adult world, if you did not go to the right schools, participate in the right organizations or “network” with the right people, it could have a tremendous impact, in dollars and cents, on your life. Look at television, music and videos-they are so obsessed with keeping up with fads and trends, that it is hard for anything of substance to break through.
More disturbingly, if you look at society’s current preoccupation with Hip-hop, you see numerous individuals professing to be “thugs,” and gangsters and numerous women professing they want to be with thugs. This often puts great pressure on young men, who base so much of their self-image on the acceptance of their peers and the opposite sex. However, I have yet to see anyone define what a thug is. This preoccupation cuts across racial and social economic lines. So you have young people, my generation and younger, aspiring to be something that has not been satisfactorily defined. What is the result? Increased ignorance and a greater prison population. But I will address society’s preoccupation with the “Thug Life” in a latter article.
This is a dramatic example of how rampant People pleasing (living and basing actions on the approval of third parties who probably do not matter) is and how detrimental it can be. It is so insidious because it is rooted in the very human need for love, acceptance and respect. However, without a sure foundation, it can be perverted into indecisiveness and instability. The real result is a severe identity crisis.
Look at politicians. The worse ones live and die by the approval rating. I think back to the story of Samuel and Saul. God told Samuel to tell Saul to go and wage war on another nation and destroy everything. Saul went to battle, but because he was afraid of the people, he took the spoils of war. At that point, God rejected Saul as King of Israel because he feared the people more than he feared God.
It takes strength and courage to be the individual you were created to be, when all our lives we are pushed to downplay our uniqueness, whether it be in the workplace, at school or in the dating/social arena. We are not going to find acceptance and love everywhere we go. Everyone is not going to like us, although we would like them to. In my opinion, it is far more important to have the respect of others than to have their approval.
Approval is such a conditional, artificial and fickle thing. As soon as you move out of your little box, your name is dirt. But you would be surprised by the number of people who fight to stay trapped into that little box and die in it, out of fear of losing that approval and validation. This is often the case with superstars. They use the approval of the crowd to fill some void in their lives. They need the admiration, but when their time in the sun is over, a number of them fade into obscurity, turn to drugs, alcohol or other destructive behavior. Why? Because the void still remains.
People pleasing will only take you so far and the cost is a precious one. It often calls for the compromise of your principles, morals and values. Also the subordination of your opinions and personality. After all, you do not even know who the real you is anymore. You become the mask.
It is far better to be true to yourself. And stick to what you know is right. You will not win every popularity contest, but you will have piece of mind. As Jesus said, “What does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and loses his soul.”
As I have said, I seek the approval of very few-the people whom my actions affect most directly and whom I know have my best interest at heart. Third parties do not really carry much weight with me. While it is seductive to be cool, and to fit in, I know it can only last so long. We were made to be individuals, not carbon copies. This is the first step to true leadership and the path to greatness.
Love yourself. Trust yourself. Take off the mask.
Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas
Question of the Week: In what situation have you worn the Mask?