“I don’t like the word nice; it means No Inner Core Evident.”
That is a quote from one of creativity coach Eric Maisel’s podcasts titled “On Being Too Nice” in which the focus [as the description says] is on “the problem of self-censorship and how too many people, wanting to be ‘nice,’ fail to find the internal permission to say, in their life or in their art, what’s really on their mind. This lack of internal permission is a great blocker and a great silencer.”
Maisel notes it isn’t a simple choice, and may take real courage to be authentic with others, and in your creative work.
Natalie Portman says she has “always been something of a pleaser: I want to make other people happy. That’s not the worst thing. I mean, the fact that you like people and want them to like you is great—as long as you’re not sacrificing who you are.” [From post Being too nice for our own good.]
How does people-pleasing relate to our abilities?
Author and coach Jenna Forrest provides in her article How Intuition Works and Why You Have It a “list of what blocked intuition might look like when viewing it moment to moment:
• Worrying about various fears that “might happen”
• Second guessing words, events, and decisions of the past
• Frustration with other people or situations that don’t change
• People-pleasing behavior or giving too much to be nice and polite”
The first child syndrome
Amber Benson co-wrote and directed the animated web-series, Ghosts of Albion, (with Christopher Golden) for the BBC, and recently published her first solo novel, Death’s Daughter.
As an actress, Benson spent three seasons as Tara Maclay on the cult show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She has also written, produced, and directed three feature films, including her latest, Drones, which she co-directed with Adam Busch and will be released later this year. [Bio from her Official Blog.]
In an interview, she noted, “I spent my life with first child syndrome, aka, the people-pleasing bug. Adam showed me that I had to make myself happy first. That, invariably, when I was happy, it made other people happy, too. And that is a hard lesson to learn for someone like me!”
[What is your favorite quote of all time?] “That’s easy. “To thine own self be true.” – William Shakespeare. [From Interview and Contest with Amber Benson | Bitten by Books]
Too willing to be told what to do
Janet Jackson, asked about her “seriousness” about her clothes, says in a magazine interview, “It just looked that way. It wasn’t about pleasing myself. I was always too rushed and too willing to let someone tell me what to do.” [From a Women and Talent post.]
It may contribute to anxiety
One of the questions on an anxiety self quiz is “Do you worry about disappointing or not pleasing others?” [For the rest of the quiz, and to get help for anxiety, see the ConquerAnxiety Program.]
Talented women caring about relationships
Sally M. Reis, Ph.D. (Principal Investigator of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented) has researched many talented women and says they typically “understood that if they developed their own talents, there would be an impact upon those they loved.
“They often were frustrated with their own inability to resolve the need to do two things: support, care for, and maintain relationships with those they loved while simultaneously pursuing a talent or a gift to its fullest level.
“Many only resolved their frustrations about their inability to pursue their own talents at a later age.”
She continues with a reference to another author: “Gilligan (1982) found that a woman’s sense of integrity is entwined with an ethic of care, and, for some, this ethic of care is confused with either seeking or needing approval from loved ones. She explained that making the distinction between helping and pleasing frees the activity of taking care from the wish for approval by others. At that point, responsibility can become a self-chosen anchor of personal integrity and strength.”
Attached to the opinions of others
Author Cheryl Richardson admits in one of her personal growth books that for years she “let fear and self-doubt rule my life, too afraid to step out on my own and follow my true desires.
“I designed my life according to the blueprints of others. I made people-pleasing a full-time career, trusted the advice of friends before my own, and sabotaged my success each time I came too close to doing something other than what others thought I should do.”
She continues, “It wasn’t until I faced the truth of how attached I was to the opinions of everyone else that I realized how clueless I was about my own.”
“You have deep within you the power to fulfill your highest vision of your life. To engage this power, you must develop a solid personal relationship with yourself.”
From Stand Up for Your Life, by Cheryl Richardson. Her new book is The Art of Extreme Self-Care.
Shutting down your own voice may start early for girls
In a magazine article, Jane Fonda noted that the “shutting down” of expression may start early in life: “Girls lose their original spirit in early adolescence,” she said.
“The bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, powerful girls shrink down to the size of a thimble… And the other women around us… send us the message that to survive as a woman, you have to quiet that voice.”
Fonda continued, “Virginia Woolf called it ‘the angel in the house.’ She would sit down to write from her core, and the shadow of the angel would cast itself over her page to say, ‘I’m not sure you want to say that. People aren’t going to understand that. You should be nicer, a little more feminine.’ … Hide your intelligence. Hide your power.”
Developing a meaningful identity is a long process for everyone, and ideally includes for gifted children and adults a realistic self perception as being multitalented, with capacities in various domains of giftedness: cognitive, affective, physical, intuitive, and social.
But achieving this multifaceted perception of identity seems to be especially difficult for many women with exceptional abilities, who may fear losing or compromising their emotional connection with others.
From my article Gifted Women: Identity and Expression
But some leaders are not so concerned with pleasing
Musician Philip Glass is considered one of the most influential of modern composers. In the documentary “Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts” he says in effect, that the enduring and strong “hate faction” of people who despise his work is “reassuring.”
We may not want to alienate others (although being offensive does work for some celebrity artists and broadcasters), but engaging and developing our talents without being overly concerned with pleasing people can help keep us authentic, more true to who we really are, and feeling positive about the value and validity of our creative endeavors.