I have worked in public relations/marketing/communications my entire career. My profession is all about pleasing people--pleasing people enough to get them to buy your product; pleasing them in the right ways to get them to make a donation; pleasing people to get them to read your article; pleasing people so they are satisfied with your PR response; pleasing people so they open the email and click on the content; pleasing people so they share your social post; pleasing people so they renew your contracts, give you more hours and pay you.
I am a professional people pleaser--an expert at figuring out the exact way to please certain audiences. I don't always get it right; but I don't typically get it wrong either.
It's funny I ended up in this people pleasing profession. My first professional path was architecture, which I chose because my math teacher told me I was "too smart" to be an interior designer (this was pre-HGTV!) and my father told me that I was "naturally inclined at science but creative." My grandparents saw me as an architect. One cousin was so excited to someday be in a building I designed.
So, I majored in architecture. It pleased people.
But, I hated it. I liked drawing; but not under pressure. I loved buildings and spaces, but not enough to ideate and innovate construction. I loved science ,but there wasn't enough in architecture. I craved creativity, but with words not with buildings.
I wanted to switch my major to English; but my Dad, already stressed by one year of college paid for and mostly wasted with architecture studio credits, said no. He said, I'd major in journalism (there were still newspaper jobs then) and public relations (always in demand!) because then my words could get me a job.
So, I agreed. I took tons of English classes. And between the support of my professors (who were always helping me find internships) and the support of my Dad (who taught me the art of the hustle and pitch and also took a liking to Dr. Marra, my creative writing professor), I had endless writing opportunities.
After I wrote that sentence, I realized that I did not give myself any credit in matter. I wrote that sentence to please one dead man, another retired man and some mass of nameless academics. None of them ever asked for this sort of praise, I just offered it in an effort to appear to be pleasing them.
Why do I even care what they think? It is ridiculous.
I think it took me 20 years to get to this place of feeling really confident and able to write a book because I needed to discover the book that I was writing for myself. When you are a writer, people tell you all sorts of things, all the time, like: "You should write a book!" or "Oh, you haven't written a book? What are you waiting for?" or "You are writing a book? That's funny." These statements truly paralyze me and trigger imposter syndrome. On one hand, I feel like I should write a book and begin scrambling for an idea. On the other hand and despite the fact that I easily write 25,000 words a week, I feel like a lesser writer because I am not author.
It's all just a bunch of people pleasing circling around in my head. It's a little bit of self abuse, I think. Pleasing the people pleasing monster in my head--and sometimes, even having anxiety that I haven't pleased it enough or worrying about what will happen if my efforts to please failed.
But, I am trying. I am trying so hard to cut this nonsense out for myself. I think writing here everyday has proven to be a bold, defiant first step in raging against the people pleasing monster in my head. I committed myself to always being honest here and not writing to please anyone (and even to avoid proofreading and corrections). I think this daily act of writing here--simply for myself--has gotten me to the place where I know what book I will write and it is not a book to please anyone.
Although, I sincerely hope it does please an editor and an agent and a publisher. But, I cannot worry about that right now, because to worry about the end is to compromise the work itself.
I am going to keep trying at this and keep trying to stop pleasing everyone.
PS I have to give credit, though, where credit is due and mention that this blog post was inspired by my favorite author and human and woman to stalk on social media, Judith Lythcott-Haims, who wrote: "Why should you stop pleasing others? Because they have no idea who you are, they do NOT know you better than you know yourself, and their approval is NOT required." These are the words I will send my children out into the world with every single day. Thank you Judith.
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