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A hilarious encounter that reminded me why living your life trying to please others is a bad idea

By Nina Steele 

Grocery shopping for twoA few weeks ago, I was loading the boot of our car with my grocery when a woman approached me. I happily talk to strangers whenever I have the chance and I smiled when she said hello. And then to my surprise, she proceeded to tell me how she hated doing her weekly shopping. I asked her how many people she had to cook for and she replied 5, herself included. And then, on top of that, she regularly has friends around and so she was always having to cook for a lot of people. She then asked me whether I hated shopping too, to which I said no, I don’t hate shopping. I then explained that I learnt long ago to accept whatever it is that is part of my everyday life, because doing otherwise would cause me to suffer. I added that unless she is willing to change her situation, she might as well learn to accept it.

Her face immediately changed from a smile to a frown. She wasn’t expecting to be lectured on acceptance and could not hide the fact that she didn’t like it one bit. Here I was, standing in front of a woman I had never met before, yet she expected me to make her feel better by agreeing with her. I was still loading the car when she made her way back to her car after returning her trolley. This time, she avoided looking in my direction.

My husband and I had a laugh about it when I recounted the story to him that evening. It was a reminder to both of us of how much pressure there is in society for everyone to conform. It never occurred to this lady that she only had herself to blame for the obvious stress she was under. Grocery shopping for a family of 5 is obviously a challenging experience for her. Yet she chooses to indulge her friends as well, simply because she seems unable to say no. By being honest with her, I have inadvertently stirred up something in her that has been boiling under the surface for a while. No wonder she didn’t like it.

The term ‘being real’ has become ubiquitous in our modern culture. You hear it in songs and motivational speeches. We are rightly told that living an authentic life is the only way to true happiness. Yet in reality, the pressure to fit in is making many people go along with things they wished they had enough courage to stand up to. The desire to be liked is playing havoc with people’s peace of mind. Luckily for me, as I get older, peace of mind is the thing I value the most. Which means that I will not always see eye to eye with others, and I am ok with that.

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