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.

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