Remember your high school dances?
Back in high school, we used to have a school dance every fewmonths. One particular time, I had plans. Big, romantic plans. You see, there was this girl I had a crush on. We’d been talking abit more and I was starting to think, “Yes. The time is right. I can ask her to dance.” I’d finally conjured up the courage. I’d practiced how I was going to do it and was extremely nervous, but also excited at the possibility. Maybe we’d even get to slow dance to “Love Bites” by Def Leppard. It was going to be great.
The big night arrived. I’m looking good in my mid-1980s school formal attire. This thing was going to be something you’d see straight out of a movie. Probably a movie like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure fashion-wise, but still. Like every dance, it started with the girls on one side and the boys on the other.
I knew timing was everything. It was a tricky game because I didn’t want to ask her too soon, before people got dancing, to give her the opportunity to say no. I also didn’t want to wait too long in case someone else asked her to dance, leaving me out. It was like a game of chicken; who would dance first and how soon would
everyone get out on the floor? Well, the first couple started and then the second, so I thought this was my chance. I picked my target and started to make my move.
Going in for the kill!
She was there on the other side of the room. My heart rate was picking up with my nerves. I started moving across the floor and as I did, I saw movement coming toward me from the side. It was a girl, but it was not the girl I had a crush on. I started moving faster, hoping the new girl would either not get to me in time, or that she’d see I had my sights on someone else. I was avoiding eye contact and mustering up the courage to say no if she got to me
first and asked me to dance.
I was just a couple feet short of my crush when this other girl got to me and asked me the dreaded words: “Donny, would you dance with me?” I knew what I wanted to say though. This was my moment. I’d planned it. I’d rehearsed it. I was going to ask the other girl to dance. So imagine the way my heart sank when the words, “Yeah, okay,” came out of my mouth.
That dance lasted just long enough for another guy to ask my initial target to dance. I stood there trying to fake smile while I saw my potential love dance the night away with another guy. I just stood there while “Love Bites” by Def Leppard played, thinking,
Way to go, Donny. You idiot.
I guess I’ve always been a people pleaser. But that’s just part of the human experience, right? We want to keep people happy, to keep the peace, to make them like and accept us. It’s just that it keeps getting in the way of what we really want.
Let’s be honest; being a people pleaser is exhausting. Keeping atop the ever-shifting sands of expectation can seem like an impossible task some days. There always seems to be just one more thing getting between you and your goals.
Starting that business can wait. A friend needs help moving furniture right now. Saving those pennies for the dream house has to wait. Right now, the little brother needs cash because he came up short on the phone bill this month. There are constantly spot-fires to put out, family and friends who require help, moods to cater to, and extra tasks to do. We do it though, because we want to keep the peace. We ignore the feeling that eats
away at us—the gnawing sense that every time we drop everything to come to the rescue, or squash our personality, opinions, or ideas to keep the peace, a little bit more of our self seems to die.
But to a people pleaser the simple two-letter word that puts an end to it all is one that we choke on time and time again. That word, of course, is “no.”
Dr. Don MacDonald
exert from “The Underdog Curse”