Inside Lane

Dear Imaginary Daughter: Pleasing People

(In which I address the daughter I never had, with the advice I always wanted to give.)

Dear Imaginary Daughter,

You know I think you are just right. Your father, your grandparents, your brother, and I all think you are just right. We are correct in our thinking, and I know this because I grew you. Because I grew you, and because I’ve been someone’s daughter, I am pretty sure you are already disregarding my words. Don’t.

Imaginary Daughter, there is a world out there, and it is full of people who are going to tell you that something is wrong with you. Those people are generally going to belong to one of three groups:

  1. People who are trying to sell you something.
  2. People who have bought something, and have buyers remorse.
  3. People who legitimately don’t like you.

I want to talk to you about those groups.

Group one is an entire industry–an economic behemoth that can only survive if it can convince a majority of people that happiness, acceptance, or a better life can be purchased with toothpaste, or veneers, or a certain kind of bra, or the right shape of silicone to sit in that bra, or having your internal organs mutilated, or starving yourself, or cutting up your face, or having the right shoes, yoga pants, and membership to the right gym.

Those people are paid to prey on your insecurities, so you will buy things to support their companies. Some people get paid to make you feel insecure. Their whole jobs are looking for ways to make you feel less-than, so they can convince you to buy their products in order to feel whole. You didn’t know your hair was too thin? Now you do! Buy this volumizer! (I’ve fallen for that one–I keep falling for that one.)

Group two can be anyone. Group two might even include some of your friends. When we buy into the idea that we aren’t good enough, we start to scrutinize people who seem to be happy with themselves. We want to know why they think they are so special, when we know that we are all kinds of messy. We wish we felt special, and we get angry that those other people are having such a good time being themselves.

Then, we start acting all kinds of foolish, trying to take those happy people down a few notches because…well…there’s no good reason other than that we just don’t think they ought to be so high and mighty. That’s having buyer’s remorse about our own value. We’ve bought into the idea that something is wrong with us, and we want to sell the same package to the happy people so that we can all be on a level playing field.

Frankly, it’s none of our business what other people think of themselves, unless we have an opportunity to build someone up when she, or he is down. The only thing you need to be to have value as a human being is human. The only thing you need to have in order to have self worth is a self.

Which brings me to the last group because there will be people who just don’t like the self you present to the world. Memorize these words, “It is okay if there are people who don’t like me.”

Listen, kid, all of us rub someone the wrong way. That’s life.

When I was a toddler, I was bitten in the face by a Cocker Spaniel. I thought the dog was a Poodle, and I’ve hated Poodles ever since. No Poodle has ever done me wrong, but I don’t care. I hate Poodles. I hate their watery little eyes, and their yappy barks, and their weird fur. I hate them. I hate them because I thought one bit me.

I feel fine about Cocker Spaniels, though.

You might be someone’s Poodle. You’ve never done anything to that person, but something about you reminds them of something awful that happened and because of that, they will hate your guts and all the casings. That is okay. It is unfortunate, but it is okay.

In the same way, you’re going to run into some Poodles of your own. That is also okay. You aren’t required to like everyone you meet. I just require that you treat people with kindness and respect.

I hate Poodles, but I would never hurt one. I’ve been known to pet some of the small ones, and I’ve even admired the beauty of the Standard sized ones. I haven’t let my misguided fear and hatred of the breed lead me to abuse, or hurt them.

You be kind to the Poodles in your life, and understand that when you are the Poodle, it’s got nothing to do with you.

If you spend your time trying to make people like you, you’ll spend a lot of time chasing your tail. Group A is only interested in your money. Group B is only interested in your hurt. Group C isn’t interested in you at all. Don’t waste your time trying to please those people by trying to change yourself to be attractive to them.

Be kind, be respectful, and be strong. Get to know yourself, and what you like. Cultivate your interests. You’ll attract friends who like the same things, or who just want to be around someone as nifty as you are. Those friends will make up a whole other family for you–your chosen tribe.

You and your tribe will build each other up, and when you need a nudge in the right direction, you’ll be able to keep one another on track through kindness, love, and generosity. (Because, Imaginary Daughter, there will also be times when you are wrong-o. There will be times when you make huge mistakes. Having the right friends, who know and love you, will make all the difference in those times.)

So…When I say you are just right, when Daddy says it, when Thor says it, when your grandparents say it, we all mean it, and we are all correct. And we are the voices you should be listening to because no one is paying us. I’ve smelled your feet and I still think you are exactly what you ought to be.

Now, go take a bath. Your feet stink.

I love you.




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