you can’t please everyone

A man and his son were once going with their donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a donkey for but to ride upon?”

So the man put the boy on the donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy lad, he lets his father walk while he rides.”

So the man asked his son to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that slothful lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

Well, the man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his boy up before him on the donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The people said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours?”

The man and boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who encountered them till they came to Market Bridge, when the donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the boy to lose his grip and drop his end of the pole. In the struggle, the donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together, he eventually drowned.

“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them:

“Please all, and you will please none.”


Most of us become people-pleasers and start tailoring our lives based on other people’s expectations. We end up becoming a spectator, a follower and a conformist caged by societal expectations. This is a miserable way to live. Instead, it’s best to let go of pleasing others and do what we feel is right for us.

It’s not possible to please everyone. We can’t live up to everyone’s expectations. If we try to get everyone to like us, we’ll burn ourselves out. There’ll always be a subset of people who will dislike or hate us. This may sound selfish but we need to please ourselves first and let things take care of itself. This is the only way to protect our happiness and our well-being. 

Next time, you come across someone criticizing you or throwing judgments at you, take a second and do what Marcus Aurelius advised: look at their soul. He wrote, “Get inside him. Look at what sort of person he is. You’ll find you don’t need to strain to impress him.” 

Here’s the bottom line: Don’t blindly accept whatever judgements or insults other people hurl at you. Instead, look at those people closely. Once you properly examine your critics and haters, you’ll quickly realize that there’s nothing to be harried about. 

Stop caring about what other people think of you. Respect yourself, respect your choices, and just keep calm and carry on.