I love doing things for others. I have the most fun hosting my friends in my dorm room to play board games and watch movies, and I take pride in picking out the perfect gifts for birthdays and holidays.
Some people may see it as being a “people pleaser”, but I don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing. Making those I care about happy makes me happy, and I never regret doing things for the people I love.
The issue with being a people pleaser is finding the line between nice doing things for others and making yourself miserable to impress other people.
For much of high school, I rarely pursued things I thought I actually enjoy. Instead, I took courses and joined clubs that I thought would look and sound impressive. I didn’t want the people around me to think I wasn’t smart, and I assumed the only way to prove it was to take challenging classes I normally would have no interest in.
I took honors science courses and joined Science Olympiad, where we would take tests on different science subjects and compete against other schools. I didn’t even like science; I was way more interested in the humanities than STEM-related subjects. But I was so afraid that I would let people down by pursuing writing that I was trying to force myself to become a science person.
The worst part was that my parents never pressured me to do any of this. They never hounded me about my grades or told me to join specific clubs. But I created this imaginary scenario that I needed to prove myself academically in order to impress those around me, when no one actually cared.
By the time I hit junior year, I dropped the honors science classes and most of my extracurriculars. I took a more active role in working on my school’s newspaper, and took both of the journalism classes my school offered. I joined a volunteer organization and my school’s improv club because those were the things that truly made me happy.
I spent so much of high school pursuing classes and clubs to impress others that I missed out on doing things I loved. I wish I devoted more time to finding what I actually enjoyed, instead of getting in my head about what everyone else would want.
It may feel like my example might seem extreme, but it’s something that happens every day. Living in such a competitive world makes us hyper-aware about everything we do.
We want to make good impressions, whether it be in careers, relationships and even to complete strangers. But there is a fine line between doing things to make people happy and doing things because you think it’s what others want.
It has taken me a long time and several bad experiences to learn to find the balance between generosity and selfishness. Doing things for yourself should never be a bad thing. Pursuing what makes you happy is more important than doing things for the sake of others.
This is not me saying that you can’t do things for others. But going out of your way to do things that don’t bring you happiness or fulfillment is not worth your time.
Life is too short to purposefully make yourself unhappy. So be selfish, get out of your head and start pursuing your passions.