Does Compromise Deaden or Deepen Us?

As a parent you want your children to take your word for it. I’ve written before about my anxiety about my daughter’s desire to be “in charge,” or “in the spotlight.” I’ve talked to her, at her, with her, around her, about how you want to make people feel important, that you want your friends to shine and feel good about themselves when they’re around you. And that’s one thing: making others feel heard. But here’s another: self-sacrifice in the service of being liked.  Let someone else run the show, let them be the star sometimes while you take a back seat, this way you’ll be more likable. Should I be mortified that I’ve said this to her? My gut answer is, “yes.” Years from now, you will read this and want to shake yourself as a mother. You’re not raising her right. But what if I felt the same way if I’d given her the advice that she should “always go for what she wants, follow her joy, don’t fear what others will think, or worry if you’ll be liked. Be you and the rest will fall into place.” Which is more cringe-worthy?

You want to show friends that you are willing to compromise because it demonstrates a certain respect, or at least a respect for the system of reciprocity.

Well, hello Pot, meet Kettle.

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for the past 13 years, you’d know that I’ve seen compromise as a type of deadening of self. Sure, it’s a mature act, and it shows compassion for others. But I haven’t fully guzzled down the compromise Kool-Aid. A big part of me believes that we were brought into this world with specific talents and personality strengths, and little by little, we conform. We play nice and catch the curse of the good girl. We try to please others, so we’re accepted and liked, and dare I say, loved. And as we hunger for this acceptance, we move further and further away from our truest, best, “meant-to-be” selves.  So, I’m deeply conflicted on how to best guide my girl. Who has an answer? Please share if you do because I suspect that I’m going to be circling this exact issue in the years to come.

I want her to keep her friends. I want her to be invited and included, for her to be liked. Why? Because I want her to suffer just a little bit less, to learn this lesson the easier way. I want her to feel safe and comfortable, to feel worthy of love. You don’t feel safe and at-ease if you don’t feel liked by your peers. It’s no fun playing with someone who always gets her way, on her terms. I want her to make room for the ideas of others. But no matter how much I remind her of the consequences of her actions, no matter how much we role-play, she still can’t help but behave the way she always has: as a #girlboss. (Who else has started watching this Netflix series?)

I think we WOULD be having the same conversation if this were about a boy, by the way. Or would we? I’d like to think so, but the dynamic between boys is different, isn’t it? I don’t even know. I know we shouldn’t use the word “bossy” because you never hear boys described as “bossy,” just “he’s a leader.” I guess here’s what it comes down to: do you care about doing things your way more than you care about being liked? Or can you find a balance, or master the art of persuasion, to achieve both? How about seeing how far you can get with an honest compliment? How about shifting your focus to lifting up those around you without losing sight of what you want? Or maybe being likable is over-rated.

I don’t have the answer, but maybe TV will. My last epiphany surrounding this topic of being an attention-hog came from my watching Fame High. Maybe I’ll find a an answer to this current question of likability vs. bossypants in this Netflix infographic…

Netflix Parenting Cheat Sheet

Looks like I’ll be watching the second episode of season 1 of Fuller House with my daughter. Of course she’s already seen it; she loves that show. But it will make the discussion all the easier, and more relevant, if it comes on the heels of a show she already enjoys.

Jump into spring with family-time on Netflix.

The Secret Life of Pets (4/22), Happy Feet (5/1), Kazoops! Season 3 (4/28), Spirit: Riding Free (5/5), All Hail King Julien: Exiled (5/12)

As a Netflix #StreamTeam member…
In exchange for sharing 1 post each month about Netflix programming, I receive a subscription to Netflix. Though I often share more often because I overshare like it’s a sport. Opinions are all mine.






  1. There are some people who don’t care if people like them and who are perfectly content if they don’t. You aren’t one of those people, which is totally valid, but maybe your daughter is (which is also totally valid). It sounds as though she’s the type of girl you would have wanted to be your friend and have like you, and you’re projecting your own insecurities onto her. You want to be liked so badly and you don’t want her to be disliked. Maybe she doesn’t care. Or maybe something will happen and she’ll learn to take a backseat, because she does something that hurts someone and she decides she doesn’t want to be that person. But role-playing her into being a different person isn’t going to help her.

    1. Author

      I think you’re right, to a point. I don’t think she deeply cares how liked she is, which I find to be shocking, until she does care. Until she’s excluded and left to play by herself. She doesn’t love that, and she wants to continue to be included in group play dates and sleepovers. She has told me that girls sometimes don’t want to play with her because she is “bossy.” And she will sometimes butt heads in school when she’s assigned to work with a partner sharing the responsibilities of a team project. She tends to want to do the presenting (be the star), and when others want this as well, they aren’t the best at figuring out strategies to meet in the middle. That’s exactly why I wrote this because I don’t know the “right” thing to do, and I DO NOT want to role-play her into being someone else! I want to support the person she was born to be. But I need guidance, which is why I’m asking.

  2. Hi, since you asked.

    I suggested to our electrician, who wanted his daughter to speak up more, to say to her sibling brothers, “Hey, I heard Lizbeth say … ” To support her speaking at home and get support and have everyone in the family get this support.

    His oberservation was that he would do this for his wife, “Hey, I heard your mother say….” He would do this for his daughter.

    (A college campus rape trial transcript revealed the young woman was afraid to say No and not be thought nice … Having No respected in this house is of the utmost importance. No one has to say it twice before it is listened to. Our daughter will walk from someone who doesn’t listen to her No because we are teaching her that.)

    Observe for a while. How does she behave at home? Is her brother a willing person who allows her to be the star? Is her father a willing person? You? Grandparents? Etc.

    What is her role at home?

    Then, see about sharing the stardom at home, the bossing, etc.

    I don’t know what you will observe, though. My only suggestion is to observe the home life.

    I discovered my daughter was copying me, which is perfect and wonderful. I was pretty bossy, though, which was, really, only me running a household.

    I have started with all of us writing the plan for the day, and not always only asking others to do things. It’s more subtle than that, but my point is that I observed after asking myself, “Why is she a Bossy Head?” (She is 3 1/2)

    I want the world to welcome my daughter with open arms and have her know how to participate in that diplomatically, democratically and communally without losing any of herself that is vital.

    I just went outside and took a butterfly net off our dog’s head: My daughter was doing that to her … “That’s my Friend!!!!!” She cried, when I brought Daisy in. I said, No friend wants a butterfly net on her head, so, she asked to come inside.

    Every moment I have the goal of teaching my daughter how people and animals and plants and family want to be treated. I also point out to her how she wants to be treated: don’t play with a dog that eats your toys; walk away if they are not going to listen to you; make sure they share with you, too. (Many times, I use the dogs as stand-ins for friends: home life practice)(I also teach her how to treat herself: Don’t wait for your bladder to yell before you listen to it, for example. Or, your yelling and frustration is because you are hungry or tired; do you know which one you are? Are you hungry or do you need a break?)

    Anyway, is Abigail sharing the stardom at home? Does she not have any stardom there, so she takes it all at school? Observe. Your wonderful mothering skills will then guide you.

    Imperfect on the Daily.

  3. Gosh this rang true to me. At my daughters recent parents evening when she was described as ‘a born leader’ my worried mother brain heard teacher speak for bossy and overbearing. I have probably compromised too often in my desire to be liked even though I’m a strong character, and I wonder if I’m dropping my own crap on her. In one breath I tell her that not everybody will like you, just be you and the friends you’re meant to have will find you. In the next I’m telling her, compromise, be nice, think of others feelings, people won’t want to play with you if you always want things your own way. I’m hoping the truth is both are right and she’ll find her own path down the middle and be happy, and make those around her feel happy in her presence.

  4. I was bossy as a little kid, I can be bossy now. Of course, as an adult, this is viewed with the benefit of hindsight.

    This is what I would recommend: focus. Think about what really matters to you and go to the mattresses over it every time. But if everything means something, then nothing means anything. Don’t be bossy for the sake of being in charge. Do it because you are advancing a specific goal.

    When being bossy is focused and thoughtful, this personality trait can bring success. When it’s a reflex, it can backfire and make interpersonal contact very difficult.

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