Is this what life is like? Or, at least, what it’s supposed to be like?! Whoa. I mean, whoa.
I’m sharing about this because I am familiar with My Wits’ End. I know what it is to reach the limit of what my habits, faculties and management methods can achieve in my interpersonal life. I have grown up on the outside but still felt isolated, stuck, and alone. Just having friends has been a huge struggle. I have been so busy managing expectations and guessing what they might be thinking, I have had difficulty enjoying their company. It has felt like I am being left behind, because I cannot grasp something innate to many other people. It has felt like standing in a foreign country, without an English version of common phrases. It has been frustrating, like a long, uphill slog without end.
But I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve tasted freedom, felt the hush of inner peace, dipped my toes in the river of meaning. Dramatic, yes. But if you are a recovering people-pleaser, or want to be, this is a little post to encourage you to keep learning, keep being honest and keep hoping.
Things get better. There are days where I feel rotten. I used to dread them (and a part of me still does). But, I know from experience, that they will not last. There will be a moment when I look at someone and they look at me, we see each other, and I don’t feel the need to convince them to like, want or appreciate me. I am not playing out a hundred scenarios. I am not exhausted. I am free. And, now, there’s a chance for relationship.
Below are a few moments that push me to continue the journey.
Exhibit A: I said something rude. I caught myself. I apologized. Both of us moved on.
Exhibit B: I disagreed with a friend’s assessment of a situation. We are still friends.
Exhibit C: I didn’t smooth over an awkward situation. I sat there and basked in the glory of not having to fix every problem I see. (Side note: We can all endure 5 or even 10 minutes of discomfort. When you put it like that, avoiding discomfort can look a bit like self-coddling. Is this a thing.)
Exhibit D: I stopped hiding my initial facial expressions or reactions.
Mind blown yet?
Maybe these examples don’t stir anything in you. I’m glad. That means you’ve probably lived the majority of your life with a healthy understanding of a) what you are responsible for and b) what you aren’t. You don’t think about people getting mad, not because you actively don’t care, but because why would you? If they are upset, they have the right and the responsibility to make it known.
This does not come naturally to me. But boy is it refreshing. It literally feels like a block has fallen from my eyes, my ears, my mouth.
And there’s a case for saying that maybe everyone is just being really, really gracious with me. And that I’m this little bull in a china cabinet, banging around until I find where I end and where everyone else begins. If I don’t sound like someone you want to hang out with right now, it’s because I am a messy little monster. Fair enough.
But you should know that none of this would have happened even 3 months ago. 3 months ago, I would have agonized over revealing the fact that I wasn’t *always* kind and good. I would have tortured myself, imagining that a friend might not want to hang out again, or that she needed time to “cool off.” I would have squirmed during the awkward conversation, internally taking responsibility for things that weren’t my fault, and trying to change the topic. I would have brought my reactions under control, even if they weren’t negative. Even happy facial expressions ended up being curated, folks.
Now, I finally understand what it means to make a mistake and not turn it into a failure in my own head. Instead of mentally replaying every step to avoid such an outcome in the future, I take a moment to debrief. And I move on. I move forward. The gratitude for this simple freedom is so real, so powerful. How can I describe it.
I finally understand what people mean when they talk about not caring what other people think. It used to feel like I would have to detest people or think of them as less, to really not care what they thought, so I didn’t even try. Now, I get it. It’s about choosing things to care about that are infinitely more important than shifting opinions. You can care about people without caring what they’ve concluded about you.
And this doesn’t mean I’m there. I am recovering, not recovered. And I am absurdly awkward about it. Awkward but honest. I don’t believe in not admitting that you’re feeling insecure, or curating what you say to make it sound like you’re always fully aware of the truth. When someone uses direct or indirect language to vocalize their insecurity, it doesn’t help to say, “Don’t apologize for being. Don’t say sorry!” This only makes some of us *ahem* want to apologize for the initial apology. And the vicious cycle continues. I am aware that insecurity is unattractive, off-putting, all that. But what if that’s just where I am, my dears? What if, today, I really have forgotten who I am? How will I ever grow up if I don’t admit it when I feel like I’ve lost my way?
In summary: I am getting longer and longer glimpses of the bright freedom beyond the vale of my broken people-pleasing. It won’t always be this way. Celebrating victories and being thankful are a huge part of fighting for that better future.
Thanks for reading!! 🙂