And now, a word from our easily-distracted and often-absent writer, June Watson.
People say you shouldn’t change to please others. “Adults” of ages nineteen and twenty are the world’s champions of individuality. Permutations and translations of the phrases, “Stick it to the man!” and “I do what I want!” echo throughout young adult culture. Freshmen biology students would rather argue with their professors (all with doctorates or masters) than sit silent as their ideals or opinions are attacked. Sophomores, barely grown, contradict historical statements made by those old enough to have lived through it. Anyone whose opinion coincides with popular opinion is branded a hypocrite.
I’m certainly one of the most guilty when it comes to championing individuality. I sing in Japanese in public, wear my pajamas into fancy restaurants, design languages in my spare time and play Pathfinder (basically Dungeons & Dragons) into the wee hours of the morning on the weekends. Yet, those things say little about my personality; all that can really be deduced from these things is that I don’t really care if people think that I’m a nerd, and I am, in fact, a very nerdy individual.
No, I believe one of the most defining characteristics of my personality is that I can be a bit of a doormat. My friends tease me about not standing up for myself, and, in fact, being pretty stubborn about it—just yesterday, as my roommate and I walked toward chemistry while I was limping with a sharp stitch in my side, she said, “You wouldn’t tell me if you weren’t fine, would you? Nope. Didn’t think so.” I don’t like to put my needs above others, not out of selflessness or benevolence, but because I’m too stubborn to admit when I want or need help.
Perhaps the strongest element of my personality, however, is one that I’m not sure is readily visible to people that don’t know me—I want to please people. I want to entertain people. I want to make people happy.
“People-pleaser,” my classmates call me when I take every word of my professor’s advice. They say that I’m betraying my own morals to make others happy. They say I should stand up for myself.
Yet, they don’t seem to understand something central to who I am—one belief central to my personality is that making others happy is possibly one of the best things a person can do. My friends, the introverts, don’t quite understand, and I don’t blame them. I live in a different world than most other, more realistic, people, an extroverted and idealistic world where every person is worth putting effort into. I realize that there are plenty of terrible people in the world, but, in my experience, it is extremely difficult to separate the good from the bad until you give a person a chance.
I want to change for others. Changing to please others is part of who I am. I want to be the “Hey, I just met you, but—” in a crowd of uninterested students that makes a person feel noticed. I want to be the vague acquaintance who buys a lab partner coffee and ends up helping them work through a problem that’s been weighing on their mind. I want to be the stranger who says something so unexpectedly kind that it’s carried with a person for months or years afterwards. I want to be the friend who says, “You are so entirely, unbearably weird, but I’m cool with it.”
I want to be all of the people who’ve done kind things for me.
There are plenty of things about myself that I refuse to change for other people. My personal beliefs (exceptionally hard beliefs to have in the field of biological sciences, turns out). My interests (Japanese video games, anyone?). My aspirations. But as far as my manner of interacting with other people, I’d gladly change that any day of the week.
Call me a people-pleaser if you must—I usually take it as a compliment.
Sorry for the weird rant about making people happy. This week many lovely people have helped me and encouraged me in unexpected ways, and I guess I was thinking about how much I’d like to be like them. Also, I’m baaaaaack!