By Michael Mead, www.LiveWell.Coach | 23 October 2019
Why is it that being overly nice or caring too much about others can sometimes be seen as a threat or a sign of weakness or an invitation for others to not care about their impact on us?
Science tells us that all living moving animals are driven by the need to avoid pain, seek pleasure and conserve energy i.e. avoid pain and seek pleasure with the least amount of effort. These are ancient adaptive traits that have helped life to survive long enough to pass on genes and evolve with new random mutations; some helpful, some harmful and some neutral. We are all the cumulative result of millions of years of helpful mutations that enabled our ancestors to live long enough to pass on their genes to the next slightly different generation. That’s pretty incredible when you think about it, something to appreciate.
One helpful mutation that human beings have developed is the desire to feel good whenever we’re connected in a social group. People operate better when they collaborate, band together, defend each other and produce more.
Sometimes people experience pain that they’re often unaware of when that core human need for love and connection subconsciously feels lacking or insufficient. In fact, we might feel that subconscious pain whenever any of our core needs feel threatened like our job security or the things and outcomes that we think we need to be ok in life.
One of the ways we might try to repair or cope with this problem as efficiently as possible is to be overly nice to others or overly reach out to connect with others, not because we really like them or want to help them but because we might need to feel good ourselves and/or need their help to protect what’s at risk for us (e.g. our needs, sense of belonging, outcomes and results etc.)
People can sense when others are disingenuous, needy and clingy and/or desperate for help with their own goals and objectives and when people see this they can feel threatened by it because subconsciously they can experience that interaction as a painful one themselves. Their subconscious mind might be thinking:
‘Here’s someone demanding my approval and attention or help, they’re being too nice and pretending to be someone that they’re not. They’re not really interested in my wellbeing; it’s just all about them. They’re fake, can’t be trusted and this might cause me harm.’
At other times we might be inviting the poor impact others are having on us because of our lack of awareness around what is acceptable behavior and because of our inability to set boundaries around and manage that. When people are not concerned with, or are unaware themselves of, the poor impact they are having on us they can often subconsciously be experiencing pain themselves associated with a sense of lacking or insufficiency around their own core needs. Their subconscious mind might be thinking:
‘Here’s someone who I can use, ignore or take advantage of to feel better myself. I’ll just keep making excuses so I can do other things that make me feel better. It’s obviously not that important to them or they obviously don’t care about that enough to manage it properly themselves so I won’t care about it either!’
Another problem here is the impossibility of what’s actually trying to be achieved. We set ourselves up for failure when we’re like this because we all have different values and ideas of right and wrong and it’s not possible therefore to be liked by everyone!
What might be happening when we’re like this is that we might really only be caring about what others think of us and how they can help us or simply only caring about and self-focused on how our own core needs can be met. In other words, we might really only be caring about ourselves even though we might think that we’re caring about others and when other people do not care about their impact on us we might feel even more ‘worth less’ around our core needs not being met and that feeling of insufficiency or lacking is the thing that’s really making us weak.
Sometimes I care (only about myself because subconsciously I'm experiencing pain around my core needs not being met and I'm not even aware of this impact I'm having on others) therefore sometimes I am weak.
This problem of unhelpful identification and overactive imagination and the need to avoid pain and seek pleasure with the least amount of effort can be overcome by using tools that help us to be more aware and accepting of who we really are and that help us to develop more helpful values and overcome our blind spots.
It can be difficult to become self-aware of these problems when we’re feeling needy and self-focused and not genuinely caring about others. But being self-aware is the first essential step for correcting problems like this and turning things around.
If we can see the way in which we’re all driven by the need to seek pleasure and avoid pain with the least amount of effort we can find it easier to see ourselves, others and the world around us clearer. Deep down we’re all equal conscious human beings. We’ve just got different appearances, abilities, personalities, thinking and emotional patterns and habits happening on the surface. We become more accepting of ourselves and of our imperfections, become less needy, take things less personally and have more empathy with others when we see people more realistically like this.
I think the balance, therefore, is in trying to be as aware as much as you can of your impact on others and of their impact on you whilst being brutally honest with yourself and others about, and ok with, your own limitations not feeling as though you need to be seen as anything else. Being present and aware of the impact we’re having on each other and being open and honest and fully accepting of our own imperfections and limitations can also help to get control back over our sense of identity, self-esteem and the outcomes we’re getting at work and in life.
Everything we do is in relationship with other people. We cannot escape people. Be strong, be independent and self-reliant. Don’t care so much about what others think of you (which only further strengthens that false sense of ego/self), care more about the impact we’re having on each other and what we’re actually inviting more of.
It's a fine balance and navigating this difficult path is one aspect of life that makes our daily interactions with others so fascinating and interesting.
Find out more about our training and coaching or simply reach out to start a conversation around the ideas expressed in this article at www.livewell.coach.