Looking back on my years spent in college and in a desk job, I’ve observed a pattern about myself that no longer serves my life. For the past ten years, I’ve been a rule-loving people pleaser. The person whose goal at work was to get along with everybody and obediently internalize every piece of feedback from my managers in order to succeed, get promoted, and get that pat on the back.
This is embarrassing to admit, because it sounds like such a phony, square existence. It seemed like the easiest way for me to function in those environments at the time, and in fact, it served me pretty well.
In the classroom, I stayed on the good side of professors and got high marks, by being this way: Read the instructions thoroughly, take notes until your hand hurts, maintain constant eye contact and look super engaged even when you’re bored to tears. In the cubicle, my tendency toward pleasing everyone and doing my part dutifully helped me maintain peaceful relationships. People trusted me to be who they really needed me to be. I was rarely ever that person who rocked the boat or asked ‘too many’ questions. This allowed me to fly under the radar enough to do my own thing; none of my managers felt the need to over-manage me, and for an entire quarter I didn’t even have a manager (read: feeling invisible). With each new team I joined, I quickly built credibility with my peers. As a trainer and product expert, my people pleasing trait made me approachable, while my desire to know the ins-and-outs of products made me reliable.
What got pushed aside, perhaps as a result? My creativity. My opinions. The self-confidence needed to practice creativity and fully express my opinions. Recognizing that I even had strong opinions, opinions worthy of sharing, was tough for me to do during this period.
This way of being burned me out, and I experienced a powerful internal shift in the past six months. I started to miss the artist inside me. The six-year-old Kristen who would spontaneously dance in the middle of Pizza Hut when her favorite Madonna song played, or ran around blowing out the candles on other people’s tables when her parents weren’t looking. The teenage Kristen with the wild hair who loved going to punk concerts and who constantly questioned the status quo in high school. (image: me at age 17)
And so, as I (literally) take the wheel this May and drive down a more intentional path to Portland, I’ve written a letter to bid “Adieu” to this trait that no longer serves me:
Dear Little Miss People Pleaser,
Thank you for helping me survive the last five and a half years of Corporate America, where office politics and drama run rampant. You kept me clear from most of the chaos, in the safe observer role, and you made me an easier colleague for others to work with. I appreciate you for allowing me to maintain solid work relationships and preventing me from burning bridges.
You are no longer necessary in my life, I realize now. I am taking on more of a leadership role, steering my own wheel, writing my own rules. I’m grateful for the connections you helped me gain, but I value the much deeper connections that come from greater authenticity and vulnerability. I will be true to my passions and brush aside those old thoughts that say I’m not enough. Instead of blindly following the ‘right’ path or being a victim in my own life, I will trust my intuition, find creative solutions to problems, and believe in myself.
Good bye, Little Miss People Pleaser. You’ve provided a smooth ride on otherwise rocky waters, and for that I’m eternally thankful. It’s time for me to exercise different life preservers – ones that are truer to who and where I am now.
Is there a trait you’ve observed in your life that no longer serves you? How will you gracefully bid it farewell and make space for something better to emerge?
With courage, love, and intensity,