I have always been a people-pleaser. I have always been one to agree with just about anything other people say, nodding along to avoid sharing my own opinion or, god forbid, stirring up a disagreement. I thought that being disliked was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. For one person to think I was annoying, rude, too quiet, too loud, too shy, too crazy, too anything... that was the fear that ruled my life. I wasn’t even wondering if I liked these people — all that mattered was that THEY liked ME. How backwards is that?!
While people-pleasing often feels like a disease, one that is hard to be fully cured of, I’ve come a long way. No, I still don’t like to engage in disagreements unless it’s absolutely necessary and someone’s opinion is too problematic for me to nod along as I usually would. Yes, I do still find myself being as kind and accommodating as possible to make other people comfortable, even if it means abandoning myself in some way. But every day I’m unlearning this need to please others and I’m learning, maybe for the first time, to accept that the only person I truly need to please is myself.
It’s hard. My initial response any time I meet someone new is to be as smiley and agreeable as humanly possible. But where does that get me? Lost in a sea of cups of tea I’ve moulded myself into depending on the people around me. And when you’ve moulded and re-moulded yourself so many times, it’s hard to remember which cup of tea you were to begin with. Which cup of tea feels true to YOU, when you’re not trying to be what you think other people want you to be.
I’ve been speaking with a counsellor and have started unpacking (as they say) all this stuff that has hindered my ability to develop a solid sense of self. When your identity is rooted in being whatever other people want you to be, it’s next to impossible to have an unshakable understanding of who you truly are at your core. All you really have is a sense of how to make other people happy. How to adapt to be what you think other people want you to be. But you can’t make everyone happy. You can’t be everyone’s cup of tea. And why should you want to be? When you are being the person that feels most natural and authentic to you, you’ll only click with people who love and appreciate you exactly as you are. Why would you want to create thousands of artificial clicks just to be “well-liked” when you can have just a few honest, sincere clicks with people you don’t have to TRY to please — people who want you just the way you are.
Because I’m a chronic overthinker and also someone who really looks forward to being a mother one day, I often find myself thinking about how I will teach the lessons I’m learning to my future children. So when I do have children one day, I hope to teach them to be unapologetically themselves. Of course I will teach them the importance of being kind and accepting, but also that being kind doesn’t mean abandoning who you are. It doesn’t mean suppressing your true self to make others happy or comfortable. In fact, I HOPE there are people who dislike them — people who think they are too much, too loud, too quiet, too this, too that. I hope this for them because that would mean they are being true to themselves. That would mean they are being so genuine that they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. And how freeing is it to NOT be everyone’s cup of tea? I hope they walk into a room with confidence, knowing they don’t have to mould themselves to fit the expectations of other people in that room. That they don’t have to leave wondering if every single person they talked to liked them. That they instead leave thinking about who THEY liked, who THEY found interesting. Not the other way around. I will teach them to never make themselves small or shrink down their personalities for the sake of others.
But before I can teach any of this to anyone else, I must first learn it myself. I must UNlearn 25 years of trying to be everyone’s cup of tea, when all along my unique self, flaws and all, was all I needed to be. I have never needed to be anything else. I have always been enough for myself and for the people who truly love me. And for everyone else... well, it doesn’t even matter. Not one single bit. And it never did.
So... you can’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But you should always, ALWAYS be your own.