I dedicate this post to my fellow survivors (current or future) of “As-long-as-people-know-I’m-doing-my-best” syndrome.
It’s okay if people don’t think you’re a good person.
It really is.
Some people will. For sure.
In fact, the way this world is set up means that the only way to be the person some people like is to be the person some people hate.
It’s . . . weird.
Life shapes its own unique deep-down needs in each of us. For some of us, our big, ultimate goal was–or is–for people to think we’re good enough, like that we’re . . . doing our best. We know we’re not perfect, of course, but we just need people to think that we tried and are trying to be as perfect as we could or can be.
And it freaks us out, the idea that someone might think we’re up to no good, or that we mean badly, even once in a while, even for one moment of weakness.
So when someone suggests that we’re . . . not getting it right, or even gives us a vibe that they may be of the opinion that we’re off course–making the wrong decisions, not pulling our weight, being embarrassing, whatever it might be–we feel an overwhelming pull to realign with their standard for who we should be. Their thoughts, feelings, views, wishes.
So we don’t live our life. We live “theirs.” All of theirs. Whatever they want us to do. It’s too scary to disappoint.
And then it turns out we never lived our own life.
And that sucks.
I can remember times where I felt like, “I don’t so much mind getting in trouble, as long as they know I didn’t mean to” or “as long as they know I tried my best.” Like the fear wasn’t even the bad things that happen when we do bad things. The fear was people thinking I did bad things on purpose. Times where literally I was like “Oh yeah, no, I’m fine with the punishment, as long as you clarify for everyone that I did-my-best/didn’t-deserve-it/didn’t-know . . .” Or times where I realized I didn’t so much care if I achieved this thing I was working to, I just wanted everyone to think I tried my hardest. . . .
If that’s you–if the gripping, deafening, overwhelming, fire-alarm-ringing-daily-in-your-head is that absolute need for people to think you’re well-meaning . . .
. . . what does that actually do for your life?
. . . and is it really your life?
I wonder, if you traced the roots of that need, where you would find it comes from. And maybe that it’s actually not fair or . . . real.
For a lot of us, it comes from a formative human or humans in our lives that withheld something we really did need–like love, acceptance, comfort, soothing, care, and nourishment of every kind–and then told us we didn’t deserve those things right now because we’re being “stubborn” or “selfish” or . . . you know, all those you’re-not-good-enough words. And we ended up feeling certain that the way to get the things we truly need is by earning them. And since “perfect” was never on the table, “always-trying-my-absolute-best-to-be-perfect-and-never-ever-ever-doing-any-less” will have to do.
And if that’s you . . .
. . . and you’re exhausted . . .
. . . maybe embrace your imperfection for a minute.
Maybe intentionally do something not quite perfect. Like at least one time. Maybe be selfish for a second. Be careless for a second. Be angry for a second. Be undisciplined for a second. Be lazy for a second.
And find that . . . the world didn’t end . . . you’re still here . . . and your real friends still love you . . . and you can still love you.
Nothing good is coming from this crippling addiction to the approval of others–from this need to be seen as “the good one.”
Stop being the perfect one.
Just be the You one.
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