Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Eating My Carrots

I think that the 30s are possibly the most transformative of decades.  What do you think? Surely more than your 20s.  I guess I can't speak to the later decades, but it seems that so much growth and change happen in this decade.

Part of that, is that I have been thinking a lot about my perception of myself versus others' perceptions of me.  As a life long people-pleaser this is not necessarily new, but my thoughts on it are.  I am thinking less about whether people like me, and more about the function of the power I place in that.  I am actively attempting to place less power in it.  And to place more value in whether I like someone.  Being a people-pleaser can feel a bit like being a hapless contestant on the The Bachelor... you suddenly catch yourself competing for the love of someone you do not know and might not even like... hell, often you KNOW you do not like them.  It is a sickness, and it can be so toxic.

I think, if you are a people-pleaser, you most likely grew up with self-pleasers and inherently seek them out to replicate that role and your (often hellish) spot in it.  It is essentially a survival mechanism that becomes a crutch.

In my life experience, self-pleasers cannot understand the motives of people-pleasers. (And the reverse is certainly true, as well) They are typically suspicious of a people-pleasers and apt to consider them manipulative or judgmental, not able to understand the reward in the pleasing behavior.  And who can blame them?... it certainly is confusing... because there often isn't one.  They are likely to confuse you for a martyr... but you aren't that... you simply cannot see your worth in being loved for your own merits.  You cannot stomach choking out a request for your own needs, lest they seem selfish.  You believe you need to make people like you (or see you) by being useful/helpful/available.  I can tell you, it doesn't get you anywhere... in those toxic relationships, anyway.  Which sadly comes to cloud your ability to see your worth in other ones.

I have spent my life like this.  In real life.  In every day.

There are people who do like me.  They think I am smart, funny, engaging, and giving.  They respect me, even.  Mr F has to remind me of this (almost nightly), because I have spent my life focusing on the few core people who don't.  It is hard and frustrating to feel trapped in someone's description of who you are.  These negative views are almost always held by people who spend little to no time with you... so how they justify their opinion of you adds even more layers to the accumulating hurt and frustration... because, of course, if they see how inherently unlovable you are with so little contact... it must be true.  And that just feeds the original injury.  It is hard to keep going to those dry wells dug in your childhood and ask to be seen differently.  And yet you feel compelled to.

Anyway.  I just spent a weekend with my family (can you tell?).  It is exhausting for me.  It makes me tense and upset to not understand how to be liked and seen as who I am.  To not have room for my real personality.  To get no positive reinforcement or even just regular conversation that isn't defensive or weird or strange or borderline combative.  To not be talked TO, but around or at.  To feel outside.

This is the normal, and I am coming to understand that less is required of me to maintain it, not more.  There isn't more effort or more time that will result in an understanding among such different perceptions of our world and our interactions in them.  That is what my 30s have gifted me.  Some dynamics are at an impasse and you have to figure out how to cut them down to what will work.  Not keep building them up.  That really only works between brains that process in similar ways.  In this situation, there will always be a language barrier.  There will always be the misinterpretations and misunderstandings inherit with that.  That's okay.  It CAN be okay.

Engage in it less.  That is an option... it might be the first self pleasing move you make, but there is something of value in that after all.

Choose better in the relationships you CAN choose.

I have learned a lot about this, this year, sharing carpool and volunteer positions at school.  The world is a great divide of people-pleasers and self-pleasers and those few sane people in between.  When you remove the emotional ties of your family and work-related dynamics you can see it played out clearly and differently.  You can see that there are healthy ways to be either.  This year has taught me to pay more attention to the positive, because there is so much more of it (really... for you, too).  This has been a wake up call for my sense of self and self esteem.  People want me on their team.  People see my worth and value my input and talents, even those who don't always agree with me or "love" my personality. There are people who see my strengths as strength and not as weakness.  There are people who see my strengths IN SPITE of my weaknesses.... This is a revelation.  And there are people who will see yours that way, too.

I can choose to make the positive interactions more powerful than the negative.  And more frequent.  I can give them more value and more of my time.  I don't need to chase the stick when I have a bushel of carrots sitting right in front of me.


Julie said...

Oh honey, I agree wholeheartedly. I finally admitted OUT LOUD to myself and to my parents-but not in a mean way, just matter of fact--that I do not like it when we have the whole family together (siblings.) I'm sure my parents didn't even listen and really get it because they are the type of people who would be like "this is what we do, this is an obligation, who cares if one likes it or not" as if there is no choice in the matter.

Last summer my dad decided he wanted to have these monthly 'family dinners' at his house (of course, I go 'solo' because it is not worth the stress for ME and Murphy to try to get him to go.) It hasn't been every month because of schedules thankfully. It's like a monthly visit to all the fun (not) of my childhood--most of the time my mom doesn't even want company (and yes, in this case family is "company", it's so welcoming!) and it is obvious, to me at least, but my siblings are a bunch of narcissists so they don't even really notice--they just think she is a difficult person (which she is 75% of the time and then there's the 25% of the time in which she is really great so you can't full-on hate her & fully separate ties.)

The last time I went over, I listened to a Thich Nhat Hanh (buddhist monk) book on CD & it helped so much with my pre-family anxiety. Just calming on the hour drive there and then calming on the drive home (with an initial cry in parking lot). I try to not fully engage when there--I appear to be 'normal' and talkative, but try not to get reeled into stuff. There's no changing other people and I will never have a deeper kind of 'mother-daughter' and true sister/friend relationship--it used to make me feel so sad, especially when my boys were younger & I became a mother. I do love my mom a lot, but it was Tom's mom who was the role model for me, of which I am so grateful. I also know I am innately the kind of mom to my boys that I wish I had & I work so hard on the parts about myself that I don't like...my mom has zero self-awareness about her actions/behavior/words to others--that MAIN point is why I have always struggled with whether I have a "right' to feel a certain way.

Then I have one of my sisters now calling me on a weekly schedule to 'officially' connect--it feels so disingenuous as she is completely entrenched in the cult-like The Landmark Forum and it is part of her 'homework' (here's a random link to an article that frankly is rather 'fair' to what it is, yet still describes it well: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karin-badt/inside-the-landmark-forum_b_90028.html). FYI, my sister is calling me during her Tuesday evening class (she is way, way entrenched--has been involved in this since it started back in 1991--she likely has spent 10s of thousands of dollars on the 'classes' and goes around telling others that she will pay for them to do "the Forum" (the first weekend thing.) There have been years that she wasn't as obsessive with it & was more normal. But she is back at it apparently. Ick.

Anyway, I've had your blog post sitting on my laptop for the last week as a 'must read' and just got to it now! Oh, remember the days when the our kids were babies & we'd be chatting back and forth into the wee hours on your blog! And now, it takes me an a week to read and respond!

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