Everything I do, I do for love, support, connection, acceptance, admiration, friendship, affection, respect and appreciation. Love is my motivation, it’s what I value most in life. It fills me with joy to feel as though I belong, that I’m accepted, cherished and appreciated. The motivation to feel this way has been my biggest strength and my biggest weakness. I have strived for this feeling at the expense of myself: I know it doesn’t make sense and I finally figured out how to stop this vicious cycle.
Since I was little, people wanted to be around me. I was described as warm, caring and helpful. I had a sweet disposition and a gentle soul. I have always been loved, but deep down I felt that could be taken away if I did something “wrong”. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone; I didn’t want people to think poorly of me. My kind heart was easily shattered by judgment and shame. I couldn’t tolerate seeing others upset. I couldn’t tolerate the uncomfortable feelings that came up in me, so I just kept my opinions to myself. Growing up I was encouraged to be nice and think of other people’s feelings first.
I became conflict avoidant. I became a pleaser. I said yes to others but no to myself.
I took a passive role in expressing my feelings. There were people at every stage of my life that took advantage of this personality trait. They made me feel guilt and shame for what I did, or how I acted. My “friends” criticized me because I didn’t play by their rules. I never challenged their words, I just took the blame. I tried to make it right. I apologized for what I did and I felt horrible about myself. As I got older, these patterns continued. It happened with men and women. I didn’t like to hurt people’s feelings so I would continue to give mixed messages. I couldn’t say no. But what I really wanted to say was:
No, I don’t think I did anything wrong.
No, I don’t agree.
No, I don’t want to hang out with you.
No, I don’t want to go on a date with you.
No, I don’t want to talk to you; I’d rather be talking to my friends right now.
Eventually I would have enough and I would step away. I would say no and sever all ties. It was so dramatic; it never ended well. Standing up for myself was not an easy experience. However, I kept doing it and each time I felt empowered. What I learned was there were people for me, people who truly loved me for me with no judgment. Each time I moved away from toxic people, I made room for generous, fun and loving friends and partners.
I decided to break the pattern; I realized that there could be another way. I remember sitting on a beach with a friend after a bad breakup with a controlling boyfriend. I made a list of all the things I wanted in a partner. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had just manifested my husband. I stopped worrying about what other people wanted and I started worrying about what I wanted. I started valuing myself. I became assertive and let people know how I felt. At first it was very scary; I didn’t want to get rejected. I didn’t want it to be turned around on me. I knew that if something didn’t feel right, I had to say something right away. When a good friend started excluding me, it hurt deeply. I needed to tell her. Before I could say what was wrong, I started to cry. She responded with sincerity and genuine concern “Oh my God, what did I do?” She wasn’t upset with me, she was devastated that she had hurt me and she wanted to make it right. Finally, I had my proof that there could be a different way. I realized that when I communicated and shared my feelings with the right people, the response was different. When I surrounded myself with the right people, everything changed.
When I knew what I wanted, I wouldn’t take anything less. Life is too short to be around those who drain your energy.
Life is too short to say yes to three parties when you only want to go to one of them. Life is too short to put yourself last. I was the hardest on myself. I went to therapy when my emotions got too strong and the stress became too much. I learned to set clear boundaries. To be clear: “This is what I need from you, what do you need from me?” Self-care was my number one priority. When I took care of myself, my stress levels were lower, my tolerance was higher and my mood was better. I learned that I could not control other people, I could only control myself. When I started getting agitated or upset, I would take a pause or step away. I would take a deep breath, say “I choose peace” and let my emotions settle before I did anything. Sometimes it would be minutes, sometimes it would be days. I realized things could wait. People didn’t need answers right away. Life would still carry on; it wasn’t up to me to fix everything. With time all these practices made me feel lighter. My new mantra became: shut up, walk away, none of your business. I now choose who I give my energy to. I give my love and support to those that I want to, not those I feel I have to. I can officially say I am a recovering pleaser and it feels amazing.