Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

You Can't Please Everyone (and the Sooner You Realize That, the Happier You'll Be)

person drinking coffee
Hero Images/Getty Images

I’m a people pleaser. I like when other people are happy with me—when they’re satisfied with my work, think highly of what I accomplish, and just generally like me.

That’s why my stomach was in knots when—at the ripe age of seven—I was trying to decide what sort of treat to bring in for the rest of my second grade class. Kayla didn’t like chocolate, but Evan did. Matt thought cupcakes were stupid, but they were Abby’s favorite.

I was tortured, and I even legitimately considered bringing in a different type of treat for everyone.

It was at that point my mom offered me a brutal (yet true) piece of wisdom: You’re never going to make everyone happy.

Gasp! What?! My throat used to get tight at the very suggestion that not everybody was going to be over the moon with my contributions.

But, then I read Seth Godin’s blog post about this very notion, and I realized something important: Not being able to please everybody can actually be really liberating.

For starters, accepting this simple fact removes so much pressure. Your only aim is to do the best you can, rather than achieve the impossible of meeting every single person’s expectations and desires.

Coming to terms with this reality also gives your own confidence a boost. You’re no longer tiptoeing around trying to make sure everybody is satisfied (often, at the expense of your own happiness). Instead, you can leverage this fact to become more internally-focused and make decisions using your own knowledge and insights—rather than being heavily influenced by the wishes of the people around you.

“It doesn’t do any good at all to know that you can’t please everyone but not use that knowledge to be bolder, walk lighter, and do better work for those you can please,” Godin says in his piece.

I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say that this all seems counterintuitive, particularly when you’re a born people pleaser like I am.

But, take some time to chew on this indisputable fact, and I’m sure you’ll realize that the inevitable disappointment of others can actually empower you—as long as you let it.

Oh, and if you were wondering, I finally settled on chocolate cupcakes for my second grade class. Kayla and Matt just had to deal with it. And, you know what? We all lived to tell the tale.