Go Please Yourself

I wonder how many times I’ve heard the words, “You can please some of the people some of the time . . .” Still the idea never seems to fully sink in. Maybe it’s a Pisces thing. Are some people just wired to care more about what other people think?

I see it for the losing battle it is but like any soldier trying to prove his worth, I will fight seemingly to the death to demonstrate my skill at making others happy—all the while hoping for my medal of honor.

Even though I already suspected what The Shower Team would say, I asked, why are some of us so relentless in our efforts to please others and to be pleasing to others? And is there another way to cease the hostilities that often flare up when we feel like we’ve failed?

You take such pride in your sacrifices. We see you constantly looking for and finding ways to put everyone else’s needs and desires before your own, thinking that there is actually some salvation or redemption or meaningful reward in trying to make everyone happy with you.

It almost always backfires in one way or another. It typically leaves you depleted or discouraged or frustrated—and wondering why all your hard work to be what someone—or everyone—else needs, seems to all be in vain.

We’re offering a somewhat exaggerated view of this of course, but not too much so. The reason we do that is to try to convey to you the ultimate futility of these efforts. The fact is that you will never please enough people enough of the time to guarantee the happiness that you seek. You can –and many of you do—devote your life to making others happy or making others well or making others rich or making others be or do or have something they want, and no matter how diligently and capably you go about this, as often as not you will fall short.

Someone will still be unhappy or dissatisfied or disgusted with you. Someone will still decide that you screwed up or that you simply weren’t enough to meet their needs—and your reward will be the inevitable feelings of disappointment or discouragement with yourself.

It’s a struggle you can’t win. And what’s more, it’s a struggle you are better off never engaging in in the first place. What we so wish you could see and believe is that your misguided notions about pleasing others are a huge part of what holds you back from the joys that are available to you.

We are not suggesting that you stop caring about others. We are not suggesting that you should have no feeling of concern or affection for others or no desire to see others thrive—or even that you should refrain from doing anything to encourage others to thrive.

Rather, what we are suggesting is that you at least consider the possibility that YOUR thriving is the best way to encourage others to do so—and that you thrive when you focus upon what pleases you. If service to others thrills you, delights you, makes you feel alive and passionately engaged in your life, then we say go for it, but so much of the time your service or compassion for others is born out of a sense of obligation or responsibility or guilt and is anything but life giving to you.

We want to see you choosing what is life giving to you. We want to see you deciding what it is you prefer in order to feel in love with your life, and then to make that the beacon that lights your way, the voice that calls to you . . . let what pleases you be the cause you take up and give yourself to—and as you do this, as you trust your wise and loving heart to tell you what is best for you, what feels like joy to you, you will become the worthy, loving, lovable, bright and blessed being that you came forth to be, and that you have been struggling and striving so hard to be.

As you thrive this way, you will please those who wish to see you thrive, and you will be an inspiration to those who also wish to thrive. And from that place of thriving, you are truly free to offer whatever inspiration or encouragement or service to others that pleases you.


When you’ve spent most of your life so far believing that suffering is noble and that the literal meaning of compassion—“to suffer”—is the highest credo, the notion of pleasing yourself first can be a tough pill to swallow. It seems to fly in the face of most of what I learned in Sunday School—until I also remember hearing something about loving my neighbor ‘as myself’.

Then I stop to wonder if there really is more to this pleasing myself business than meets the self-sacrificing eye. At the very least it give me pause . . . it feels like a white flag waving in a tired battlefield, and that leaves me ready to stop licking my self-inflicted wounds for a while and to see what I might do when I’m not trying so hard to be the good little soldier.

And that leaves me feeling less at war with others and with myself—and for the moment, complete.

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About Dan

Published novelist, poety, essayist, photographer and college educator. Visit me at www.firstadream.com.

Posted on December 24, 2007, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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