Keep Him Happy


“Keep Him Happy”

I hear this saying a lot.

Whenever you hear talks about dealing with people you might hear it too. It usually goes something like this.

“Let’s just make sure we keep them all happy”, or with a sports team, “I sure hope the Cavaliers keep him happy and pay him”.

You’ve heard it before, right?

You’ve actually probably said it at some point too. Or if you haven’t said it, you’ve acted in a way to just “keep them happy”.

Most of us have probably done it at some point, there is that person who is emotionally unstable and we do everything we can just to make sure they stay happy, even at the expense of ourselves, so we can keep the peace.

Maybe you have that moody person at work, and each time you encounter them you just try to keep them happy. So you slap a smile on your face and do everything in your power not to upset them, but then when they aren’t around you complain about their behavior and how they make you feel instead of deciding that their emotions and their behavior are not your responsibility.

On the surface, this little saying, “keep him happy”, seems so harmless. It’s just a saying after all, right?

Right?

I don’t think so.

I think it’s actually a symptom of a much larger issue that should be addressed, and it begins in childhood.

What do we learn when we are children? Anyone care to take a gander?

Think about it, when you were a kid, who did you try your hardest to not make mad or upset.

Who did you always hope was in a good mood or was happy?

If you’re like a lot of people, you said your parents. If not your parents, then I would venture to say that most of you answered some type of authority figure.

Maybe it was grandma, grandpa, a teacher, a principal, a coach, somebody in a position of leadership or authority.

And yea, maybe a few of you said someone that wasn't in a position of authority like a bully at school, but by using the posture of “keep him happy” you actually just lifted that person to a place of authority over you. I did this quite a bit as a kid since I was bullied so much.

Pause…

Before we continue, I want to acknowledge that there are some of you reading who have not ever or do not ever experience this personally. Even if you aren’t personally dealing with this, keep reading, because someone in you life more than likely is dealing with this, and reading this may help you better understand them.

Lets continue…

Trying to keep others happy comes from a place of fear or of feeling inferior to that person. It lifts that person to a higher status that you, which in turn causes you to minimize yourself. They are somehow more deserving of emotional space, or so we think, so we bow to their emotions, and neglect our own. We make ourselves feel less deserving of love and respect which causes us to have less confidence, and this has a negative impact on many areas of our lives.

For me, I never wanted to make any authority figures mad. I was constantly afraid to “upset” them because I thought they would somehow take it out on me. I played the game of tip toeing around, making sure I did not “ruffle the feathers” so to speak.

At an early age, this may have been my only tactic to keep me safe from the abuse of authority figures and bullies, whether it be physical or emotional. It was my only way of keeping the peace, which in turn, kept me safe.

The way I thought about it, if nobody was mad at me, they couldn’t and wouldn’t hurt me. If I just constantly gave in to them, or so I thought, they would not hurt me or attack me.

And I was mostly right, at a young age, bowing down to authority and trying to “keep them happy” kept me safe for the most part.

Then I grew up, and those patterns of behavior followed me into adulthood.

And I continued to make myself small and bow down to people who didn’t treat me with love and respect. I even felt small, and guess what happened as a result? I limited myself as a baseball player and a person.

Yes, our mindset and our emotions have a direct affect on our athletic performance as well as our physiology! Our hormones are actually impacted by our mental-emotional state!

I didn't put it together until recently and it has taken years of working with teenagers to really begin to understand this, but when I would hit in games I would stand tall in the batters box, almost straight up, and I kept my hands up above my head.

I did not do this for any type of athletic advantage. Frankly, it was to my athletic disadvantage. I couldn’t hit well from that stance.

You want to know why I stood tall in the batters box?

Lets see if you can guess.

Mentally I felt really small, so physically I stood really tall.

Anyone?

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Because it made me feel bigger.

I hated feeling small.

I hated feeling like the pitcher was up on that mound, bigger than me, looking down on me; so, to fight that feeling, I stood more upright in my batting stance and I felt big and I felt better about myself, confident.

I didn’t always hit that way though.

When I was a young kid, I took a few years of karate classes, and my batting stance kind of morphed into a quasi baseball/karate stance.

I used to crouch really low in my stance, deep into my back leg, and I had a lot of success that way, which, through research, I now know why that gave me so much success. Based on many studies of professional hitters, I was activating the proper muscles and they fired more properly through the kinetic chain because of my deeply crouched stance.

Then it changed. It changed right around the age of puberty. Right around the age when many guys start trying to display their physical dominance or their “manhood”. You know, the arm wrestling, the body slamming, the shoving in the hall ways, the “my arms are bigger than yours” conversations, guys start growing body hair, and all the good stuff that comes along in middle school.

Not so fun times for some of us.

I was a late bloomer, I didn’t have much leg hair in middle school, didn’t have any armpit hair, and didn’t even start shaving until I was 17. Now I grow a grizzly beard in a matter of a few days and kind of miss the no shave days, but back to baseball.

Because of all these things going on, I started to stand more upright in the batters box. I felt bigger, I felt stronger, I felt more fierce.

Now, at 32 years old looking back, and studying teenage baseball players for the last decade, I think I have an idea of what happened.

Because for so long I bowed down to authority and bullies just trying to “keep them happy”, I set myself up for low confidence and when we all [boys] started to grow bigger and stronger, I wasn’t mentally ready. So, when I would face off against a pitcher, I stood taller to feel bigger because mentally I felt small.

It’s kind of like what you hear about doing when you’re in the wild and you come across a bear. What do people say you should do? They say you’re supposed to make yourself appear much bigger. So you lift your hands as high and as wide as you can or you go to higher ground, that way you seem bigger and the bear leaves you alone, hopefully. That’s basically what I was just doing naturally in the box, but I didn’t really know I was doing that.

I was acting out of fear.

The funny thing is, it probably didn’t at all intimidate the pitcher in the least bit. It probably, more than anything, just made the low and away strike seem that much more appealing to him.

I hit this way with enough success through high school to be noticed by MLB teams and colleges, making my commitment to play at The University of North Carolina where I hit ok, but never hit to my full potential, at least not in my opinion or the opinion of coaches and scouts.

My best year at UNC was my sophomore year when, by the advice of my coach, I made my stance wider and lower. He told me I would lose some of my power, but I actually regained my power, smashing 14 home runs that year. I didn’t maintain it though, I stood tall again my junior year.

The same thing happened in pro ball. I didn’t hit very well while with the Braves I never reached the potential I thought I had or the potential the Braves thought I had and was released in 2010.

I signed with a new team in Texas and, for whatever reason, I crouched down again.

Maybe it was the lack of success, maybe it was the MLB hitters I was studying at the time, or maybe it was the new environment I was in.

I felt less stressed and less threatened, able to be myself. I wasn't trying to please coaches or please the Braves.

I honestly just felt really comfortable where I was and it showed at the plate, as I batted .305 with 10 home runs and 16 doubles. I was awarded with an all-star selection and had a lot of fun playing baseball again.

So, what does all this have to do with anything?

I’m glad you asked.

I’m hopeful that from this article you will possibly start thinking about these words, “keep him happy” with more depth and understanding.

I’m hopeful that by thinking about it in a different way may help you in your parenting and coaching, in the confidence of your children and kids you coach, and in your own confidence.

I’m still working on this myself. I’m working on being better about paying less attention to keeping people happy and just respecting all people simply because they are people, and I think all people should be loved and respected, but no person should be bowed down to.

I think both adults and children alike can learn something from this concept of trying to keep others happy. Children should not have to worry about making sure they keep others happy simply to keep themselves safe. And parents shouldn’t be acting in ways to simply keep their children happy.

I see this far too often, rather than parents parenting their kids, they simply work to keep the kids happy. They may be afraid of making a scene in public so they just try to keep their kids happy. Or they are looking for approval from their kids and in turn just try to keep them happy. Some parents find all their worth, meaning, and happiness in life from their children so they in turn always try to keep their children happy.

I think this will serve to work to the detriment of both the child and the parent and should be avoided.

I’m not saying you should never try to help someone be happy, but I think it is important to take a look at this posture or this attitude that people have that is “keep him happy”, because I think this attitude ends up playing out in a way that people may not intend. I think it leads to loneliness, a lack of happiness, a lack of joy, and a low self image for those who are trying to just keep others happy.

I know it did for me.

By always trying to keep others happy, I was left being low on happiness and low on confidence, because all those people I was trying to keep happy weren’t doing the same for me. They weren’t concerned about keeping me happy. So when it came to my own happiness, I was so depleted of the resources I needed to experience happiness that I was empty.

I think it takes a deep maturity to get to the point of understanding that you’re not responsible for others emotions and behavior because it’s easy to just brush others’ emotions off as unimportant.

Emotions are important, but in no way should the emotions of others control us.

That’s a form of oppression that will lead to a lot of unnecessary frustration and failure.

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