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You Can’t Please Everyone

By Tony Fahkry


It was Abraham Lincoln who first drew our attention to avoid necessitating the need to please everyone via the following passage, “You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.” His sentiments were no doubt echoed through personal experience as the sixteenth president of the United States until his subsequent demise via an assassination in 1865.

We cannot wish to please people all of the time, since it is not humanly possible to do so. One need only listen in on social situations these days to observe the number of people venting their anger at a higher power. Even God, Jesus, Buddha and other deities often fall out of our good books when a crisis or tragedy looms. Being in and out of favour at particular times, we often choose to drop God from our lives like defriending somebody on social media. How can we possibly please one another?

Psychologists have observed that people pleasing may be a behaviour sewn into childhood. People pleasers normally grow up in homes where parents were critical of them. In order to compensate, they grow up endeavouring to please others in order to appease their childhood misgivings. Being seen to be ‘good’ equates to being liked and accepted, although this comes at the cost of denying one’s personal power. Perhaps you know people like this?

As adults, people pleasers may find it challenging to let go of childhood programs while they aim to please others. They run the risk of unconsciously giving away their authority in order to gain acceptance. Whilst it is not my intention to single out people pleasers per se in this article, at some level we all have a need to be accepted and liked. It is sewn into our social fabric to connect with one another, albeit without depriving ourselves of our self-worth.

So how do we find balance between pleasing others without forsaking our own needs? I hope the following points provide you with an outline on how I believe this is possible.

  • Follow Your Instincts: Pursue that which resonates with your deepest self, whilst not being overly concerned with the opinions of others. Easier said than done. This requires practice since we must first gain confidence in trusting our own judgement. It is acceptable to make mistakes along the way. Undoubtedly depriving ourselves while subordinating to others is disempowering in the long term and may attract little support from friends.
  • Express Your Authenticity: When you express yourself authentically without hidden agendas, you are bound to be criticised. Such criticism is often a result of reservations within those casting aspersions towards you. Being receptive to others’ viewpoints is engaging in many ways. Forming your own judgements is far more beneficial, since you become accountable for your own decisions. Moreover you cannot blame others when life does not work out as planned. Being in control and accountable for your own life is a tenet worth following.
  • Don’t Supplicate to Please Others: When you supplicate to others, you risk taking on other people’s pain and making it your own. Let them sort through their own fears, insecurities and anxieties without being caught up in the drama. Instead, become accountable for your thoughts, words and actions. When our aim is to please others, we take on their problems as well as ours. For example, if you aim to please someone who is narcissistic by nature, you must impose that upon yourself in order to appeal to that side of the person.
  • Criticism Comes With The Territory: When you follow your inner wisdom, people will naturally disapprove. They will disapprove anyway, so pursue what is right for you regardless. Choose to live an authentic life and care less about the opinions of others. Attend to your own needs first and invariably others will look to you as a source of insight. I’ve often said that we coach others on how we wish to be treated.
  • Stand in Your Own Power: When we please others we surrender our own power. We deny our magnificence, talents and skills since we buy into pleasing others first. People’s expectations and judgements of you are merely based on external observations. It is easy to judge others while deflecting the real task of dealing with our own inner demons. Don’t fall victim to this.
  • Recognise What Is Important: People’s values differ quite enormously, even within the same social circles. You might regard higher worth on inner values, while others might place importance on material possessions. This creates a disconnect since you are basing another person’s assessment of you on differing values. Interestingly most people do not have adequate understanding of themselves, let alone qualify to know what is right for you. Do not buy into the falsehood that others have your best interest at heart, while forming an assessment of you.
  • Know Your Boundaries: Being assertive yet reasonable is empowering. It endows you to set boundaries by refusing to allow others to walk all over you. Assertive people command attention and respect. I am not encouraging you to be condemning or intimidating. Respond to others needs in an empathic and compassionate manner, yet do not subjugate, nor disparage your self-worth as a result.


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