A Pleasing Pattern


Are you a people-pleaser? Fortunately, I’m not, and haven’t been since my teenage years. I have pretty much done what I wanted to do, and I have never had a problem saying ‘no’ either if I didn’t feel right about doing something.

Having said all that, there was a ‘pleasing pattern’ which came to the surface quite unexpectedly ~ one that I thought was long gone. It really surprised me, and had it not been for a very direct statement I may have missed it, which would have been even more surprising given how brutally honest I am with myself.

At the time I was at university ~ a confident and successful 40 something businesswoman who had stepped away from what she did very well to follow a new passion. But given my miserable school history both in primary and high school, stepping into the academic world after 25 years was not only a momentous step, it was a huge challenge.

And I did it brilliantly because I loved it ~ straight A’s and distinctions. And with each result, I’d phone my mother, and with great pride tell her about my latest achievement. Until one day she said, “You know I’m proud of you, but I hope you’re not trying to please me. Do it for yourself.” And suddenly, it struck me, I did want to please her. I’d slipped back into an old childhood pattern ~ I was the good little girl performing perfectly because it made my mother happy.

What an amazing realisation! I couldn’t believe it was still there! Over the years Mum and I had spoken openly about why she steered me in the direction she did when I was growing up. As far as her children were concerned, her hopes were high. She wanted the very best, which for her was a cultured upbringing. And being as tuned in to her hopes and dreams as I was, I fulfilled them to the best of my ability. I played piano beautifully and danced ballet, even better. And while there is always an element of pressure in having to practice daily and rush off to lessons I didn’t question it, for me it just was. My sibling’s response however was quite different. My brother flatly refused to have anything to do with the piano and couldn’t understand why Mum kept dragging us into the city to see Swan Lake and Giselle, or sit through Madam Butterfly and Faust! And by the time my sister came along, well, times had changed, and freedom was in the air ~ she happily did whatever she wanted!

Education was also very important to my mother. The war had completely destroyed her hopes for higher education so when I decided to apply for university, I was yet again fulfilling her dreams. It would seem the stage was set, and there was no way I was going to escape revisiting the past. It was almost as if the Universe had conspired for it to be dealt with, and deal with it we did ~ instantaneously!

I have never been one for over-analysing. I don’t see the point. For me, it’s a waste of time. Once I see it, it’s fixed and I move on. And that’s what we did, my mother and I. I can’t thank her enough for recognising the pattern, for in that moment we were both released. She was not prepared to repeat the past, and I was finally free to be truly true to myself. The pleasing pattern’s power was at last gone.

Inara Hawley © 2014

4 thoughts on “A Pleasing Pattern

  1. Another good piece Inara. How clever you are to not only recognise what is happening in your life, but to immediately act on that recognition to your advantage. :0)

  2. I completely understand and agree with what you say here, Inara, but I doubt it is possible to prevent that need/desire to please/make proud our parents. Mine were very loving and not at all pushy with me, genuinely pleased and proud of whatever I did, so there was no compulsion there but I felt right into adulthood the need for approval. And my sons, though we never put any stress on them to perform, say that they beat themselves up over being ‘right’ with us! And we never knew, never realised it. Our younger son in particular always strives to push himself again and again and he reckons it started with needing to please us. Huh! What can you do?? Are we hard-wired for it?

    • You make a good point Lynne. Perhaps there is an element of it being a hard-wired pattern. It’s certainly very common. Getting to a place of being joyful about our successes without wanting to please anyone, especially a parent, is the key. Both parent and child need to give permission for it to change, and not everyone is ready to do it.

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