the Need to Please
Most of us start our businesses because we’re really passionate about what we do. We’re here to have an impact and we desire nothing less than for our clients to have the absolute best, most transformative experience of our products and services.
Our high expectations drive us, but in some ways they also hold us back. Because we’re so passionate about helping others, any feedback that falls short of, “OMG! You and your class are life changing!” can easily trigger fear-based feelings of being unworthy, rejected and not good enough.
We’re of course not the only ones who are sensitive to criticism. Studies have shown that it takes five or six positive comments to counteract the psychological effects of just one negative one. It’s no wonder that so many people stand on the sidelines of life rather than make themselves visible and risk being hurt by their potential critics.
On some level I think we’re all aware that not everyone shares the same opinions and tastes and yet, our secret hope is that we can express ourselves to the world and be fully 100% accepted. As any successful person will tell you, overcoming your dependence on the approval of others is an essential first step if you want to play big in the world. However it’s also an ongoing process, because with more success comes more attention, more opinions and more you need to work through to be strong enough to get to the next level.
At this point in my business I’ve definitely received my fair share of both glowing praise and public critique. I know how even when the positive comments far outweigh the negative, it’s always the words of your critics that stick with you most. I’ll never forget the first time I experienced what seemed like a career-shattering amount of public criticism. (Relatively speaking, it was a small number of people, but at the time it seemed like the entire universe.) It threw me into a total spin and in order to move forward I had to really do my work on it. It wasn’t until then that realized how deeply I actually needed to be liked and approved of. I started to see how unsafe I felt in the world and how easy it was for me to lose my sense of self whenever someone criticized me.
Working through that awareness freed me from even more of my co-dependency. I built a stronger sense of self and have become much better at staying grounded in my own experience, rather than letting others shape my reality. Though it never feels great to have a client be unhappy with your services, I can now look at negative feedback honestly without fear. I can openly consider, is there any truth in this? If there is, I take responsibility for what I could have done better, do what’s needed to make it right and move on. If not, then I leave it in the experience of the other person…and move on!
While over the years I’ve gotten a lot stronger in receiving all kinds of feedback, still there was a part of me that seemed to be thinking: how can I please everyone? It came up recently while I was enjoying the day off with a girlfriend. My team and I had gotten evaluations back from a Divine Living Academy event and while there were plenty of five star reviews about how life-changing it was, I couldn’t stop thinking about the few responses that said they wished the content was delivered in a different order, or that the hours and schedule should have been different.
I divulged this pesky inner monologue to my friend and she said to me, “Gina, I used to be a school teacher. At some point I realized it didn’t matter how much homework I assigned. Some parents would complain I was giving their kids too much homework, and others would say I wasn’t giving them enough.”
Something about what she shared brought so much clarity to my situation. I felt the truth in the saying you can’t please everyone all of the time and I saw all the ways I was still putting that expectation on myself. I realized that not only is it unrealistic, but it doesn’t allow for diversity. It doesn’t allow for people to have a difference of tastes and opinions and preferences—and diversity is the natural way of life.
I see so many women holding themselves back from developing successful businesses because they’re afraid of public criticism and of what their families are going to say about them. Here’s what I say: You can become strong enough to move past any public criticism that comes your way. And as for what your family is going to say—I can promise you that whatever you’re afraid of them saying, they’re already saying about you now and they’ve probably been saying for a very long time. The truth is, people are going to talk no matter what you do, so you might as well go ahead and be successful and enjoy your life.
Regardless of what anyone else thinks or says, those of you who have the courage, the audacity and the drive to show up in the world and take the risk of being you deserve to be proud. You’ve harnessed the power within yourself to push past your comfort zone so you can really live out your life’s purpose. You’re living what so many people who are in hiding right now wish they could claim for themselves and more likely than not, you will inspire many of them.
So here’s what I can promise you. If you’re seeking Divine guidance and following your intuition as you take action to put yourself out there, will you do everything right? Will you never have a dissatisfied client? No. You will make mistakes and say some things you probably shouldn’t have. You will also face the reality of not being able to please everyone all the time.
However I’m certain that you showing up for yourself and for your purpose will positively impact more people than you will ever be criticized by. And that’s where you have to keep your focus. Always remember who you’re meant to serve, the lives you’re meant to change and how you’re meant to contribute to the world. Because that’s why you started this business in the first place.
THE FOUR AGREEMENTS: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
by Don Miguel Ruiz
This bestselling book based on ancient Toltec wisdom totally helped me transform my co-dependency. In simple yet profound terms, it will teach you how to not take anything personally and live with integrity, joy and freedom.