I have always strived for praise and appreciation from those closest to me. I’ve crushed goals because it made me stand out. I was noticed. I got the attention I always craved from the people I loved. And most importantly, it made those around me happy and proud. I’ve done this by always doing the “right” thing, striving for success and achieving it or playing the peacekeeper. I’ve spent most of my life living for those five minutes of fame where what I did mattered.
Doing the “right” thing
Growing up, I did everything I could to stay out of trouble, and for the most part I was successful. I didn’t live on the edge because I didn’t want to disappoint those around me. I certainly didn’t want negative attention and I most definitely didn’t want to make waves and disturb the peace.
I can count on one hand, the number of times I made a mistake and had to learn a hard lesson. In fact, some would say the mistakes I’ve made were big ones and make up for all the little ones others may make. That’s a story for another day.
You can imagine how that makes me feel as the girl who wants to keep the peace and do the right thing. For the most part though, I was a rule follower and still am. I have put endless amounts of effort into doing the right thing most of the time— all to please others.
Striving for success
If I set a goal and I told someone about it, you better believe I was going to achieve it. The first time this became really evident was in college. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to be there. I wanted to study something that was going to give me a career where I would have stability, financial security and success.
Looking back though, I realize that every success I had— I jumped on the phone to share it with my mommom, my parents, my roommates, my friends. I did this because I wanted their approval and I craved that positive feedback and interaction. I wanted them to look at me and say wow look at her go!
Of course it felt good to me in the moment but at my deepest core, I always wanted someone else’s approval. I craved it. I needed it. I needed to know that what I was doing was making others happy and proud when really I should have been focused on what made me happy and proud.
Playing the role of the peacekeeper
I have always been the peacekeeper to a fault. In friendships, with my family, in relationships, and with myself. Over the years, I have tried so hard to maintain the peace. I have worked endlessly to fix things before they fell apart—even when they may not have fallen apart at all. I feared people being upset or getting angry in my presence—still do but I’m working on that. Talk about unnecessary anxiety.
If and when things did fall apart— I would feel guilty. I’d feel guilty that others were unhappy even if it had nothing to do with me or my own actions. I’d feel responsible for fixing it and reestablishing the equilibrium of the situation.
So what’s the fault in trying to make everyone happy. The fault is my own happiness. In trying to please everyone else and to do what they wanted me to do— I sacrificed myself. I gave up my personal thoughts and feelings, my desires, my ability to feel the feels and share those feelings. I gave up standing up for myself. I gave up my sanity. I gave up the ability to allow myself to grow and flourish as my own person. I was so worried about keeping the peace that I would conform to whatever it was that people wanted me to be, to feel, to want, to need.
Value your happiness starting now
I’m writing this to narrate the story I have played the main character in for years so that I can help you to get where I am today —faster. I want to help you to see the value of your own happiness, of your own narrative, of your own hopes and dreams and of your own path.
The opinions of others are just that
They’re opinions. Plain and simple. Everyone’s entitled to them but don’t let them steer you away from something you believe in. Stand up for yourself. Do the things that make you happy. Set boundaries. Go after a dream that seems down right crazy to others because if it’s not crazy to you and you really want it— that’s all that matters.
And if you reach your dream?
Great. I hope it brings you happiness. I hope it brings you true happiness and I hope you didn’t do it for anyone but yourself.
And if you fail?
There’s no such thing. The fact that you went after something you wanted is a success worth celebrating. Not to mention, with every path we take, there’s something to be learned. Every path leads us to another path and eventually we end up right where we are meant to be.
The peacekeeper role no longer serves you
Please don’t forget that people are responsible for their own feelings and their own reactions. If they’re upset over a waitress bringing the wrong beverage to the table and they want to ruin an entire meal over it, maybe don’t go to lunch with them. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t try to fix it. It’s not your job to make everyone react or feel a certain way.
You have nothing to prove to anyone but yourself
It’s taken me a while to learn my own self-worth. In a way I’ve been working toward it my entire life but I’ve only really embraced it in the last few months. Thank you quarantine for that!
We all deserve to be happy and to experience the feeling of self-love. No one should suffer the anxiety of trying to prove themselves to another person or trying to live up to someone else’s expectations. And no one should ever feel responsible for someone else’s actions. It’s not our job to keep the peace. Use that energy to find peace within yourself, to live your life the way you want to, to work towards your own goals and to embrace the things that bring you abundant happiness.