When high school began, fitting in was a high priority for me. I tried to be especially nice to the ‘popular kids’, hoping they would like me. As time went by and I became more focused on choosing what college to go to, what my major would be, and just generally thinking about the future. And the more I thought about the future, the less I cared about the present day popular crowd.

At the beginning of senior year, it suddenly occurred to me that my classmates and I would soon be going our separate ways after graduation. Meanwhile, my future plan was coming into focus. I got accepted to the college of my choice, and I was on track for a career as a graphic designer. So why should I care what the popular kids think if they weren’t going to be around after graduation? Ironically, it was during this time that my friend made a comment about how popular I became. Huh? I didn’t feel popular.

Apparently what happened was that I was saying ‘hello’ to a lot more people on campus. I carried myself with confidence, and didn’t pay any mind to anything that didn’t have relevance to my future plans. I had long term goals and I was focused on achieving them. So I guess that created the illusion of being more popular, but maybe I was just more friendly and sure of myself?

Unfortunately that self confidence didn‘t last, and I found myself once again trying to be a people pleaser. Oh there‘s nothing wrong with trying to get along with people and help them when they need it. But there are signs to watch out for when a relationship turns from healthy, to someone in need of a people pleaser intervention. Here’s a list of warning signs from Psychcentral that I thought was spot on:

  • You change yourself in response to criticism, regardless of what it is and who it comes from.
  • You let other people make decisions for you.
  • You don’t set or maintain boundaries.
  • You’re a perfectionist.
  • You hold your tongue if your opinion differs from everyone else’s.
  • Your peace of mind relies on approval from others.
  • You’re constantly apologizing, even when you did nothing wrong.
  • You rarely say “no.”

I did find myself checking off a couple of those signs on the list, and change was not easy. I had to face possible rejection from certain people, and I also had to realize that was okay. What I learned is that the best people to have in my life, are the ones who don’t expect me to be anything other than my authentic self. And they don’t give me any guilt or grief when I say ‘no’ to them, because they understand a person need to say ‘no’ sometimes for the sake of their own mental wellness. And that is the kind of friend I’m striving to be in return.

Take care.