I have been a people pleaser since birth, my parents reported that after expecting to be drained by a newborn they instead had a child who hardly cried, toilet trained very early, and played quietly in her crib until they woke up every morning. As I grew I learned many and varied techniques to please people and get them to like me. Although I could be assertive and express my opinions clearly – it was only this past year that I realised how distressing it was for me when someone didn’t like me or I had to say no. Its seemed that most of my fires were burning solely of other people’s praise – and my perception that they liked or were happy with me.
This was brought into sharp focus at the very beginning of the year when I had to actually say no to someone, a definitive no that they were not very happy to receive. Although I could have rearranged my world to say yes, I felt it was time for me to face this fear – to say no and to hold steady. I said no but the holding steady part didn’t work out that well. My no sent me spiralling into ruminations and constant replay until I was exhausted and woke up yesterday morning with my back completely seized up. Its seems it’s a lot easier saying no than living with the idea that I may have displeased someone!
As with everything my calculating little mind started to think about why – why now and why me? Then it struck me – one of my biggest fears about having children – is that someday they will not like me and how I am possibly going to handle that? On a rational level I understand that there will be times in every parents journey when their children will not like them and a plethora of times when they will need to say no. They are also equally times when you are not going to like your child – it’s the nature of relationships. And the journey for my children is going to harrowing unless I learn to stoke the fires of my soul – with my own goodwill and self love.
So how does a consummate people pleaser face the reality that there will be times when people don’t like her? Well my strategy has generally been to say yes and people please while quietly seething in resentment until I either – a) Explode and am so ashamed that I leave the job, never speak to the person again and hide under a rock until the feelings have subsided or b) not expressed my feelings or desires but found some other excuse to leave the job, distance the relationship and hid under a rock until the feelings subsided.
This is no longer an option, both blowing up and running away have left me exhausted, physically locked down and stressed to the point of depression. Its time to express my emotions, to say no when I need to and let go a little and not take it all so seriously and personally. Small steps – each one building a part of the fence that will outline my boundaries. In short I need to learn that my opinion of myself is the only one that really matters in the long run.