My name is Erin. I’m a recovering people pleaser.
I think the basis for my problem started in my youth. I grew up in the country and honestly we did not get much time with other kids outside of school–it just didn’t work out that way. I’m not blaming my parents, and in fact there were many other benefits that outweighed that particular risk and they should receive bonus points for that!
As a result, I didn’t know how to talk to people when I was growing up.
I say that to people now and they laugh at me (if you know me personally, I can usurp my share of air with verbal banter).
When I was young, I also had very few friends. While talking to kids my age was awkward, I found making friends even more so. I remember my mom and grandma telling me to “just talk to people!” The task was perplexing, and I remember spending a lot of afternoons crying in my room.
I moved away from home and I learned how to make small talk and socialize when I got into college and started working in healthcare. The new digs opened up the beginnings of communication for me, and I apparently went belly first down that slide.
Remember when I said I learned to socialize in college? I took the change of environment and being surrounded nearly 100 percent by strangers as an opportunity to redefine myself. I learned to talk about things I didn’t care about; I learned how to get people talking about themselves. I learned the art of “small talk.” If you’ve ever read “How To Make Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, I naturally kind of developed those skills all on my own.
I created this persona that was nice to everyone; I did nice things for other people. I went out of my way to make others happy. I even made a career choice out of trying to please others and care for them.
When I had friends I would go out of my way to meet them, never asking them to put any effort into the friendships–I could come meet them! I would make the effort to call, I would do the asking. I had lots of social time, it just happened to be very convenient for everyone else.
I put myself second. Or third. I cut myself short frequently, all in the name of making people like me. I tried to make up for the deficit I had as a kid.
A quick summary might provide a path filled with relationships with men, friends and business cohorts that failed because I focused on making those involved happy instead of figuring out first what I needed and standing up for that.
I write this today because after time spent working on taking care of me first, I have had a very recent victory in setting boundaries. I was able to say no to someone who was doing their best to try to get me to comply to financial, temporal and physical efforts that would have been great for that person, but would have been a great burden to me.
I set my boundaries, politely explained them and when those were not accepted, I said goodbye. Two years ago I would not have been able to do this.
Setting boundaries are so extremely important in not undercutting yourself; when a person is not whole, not healthy, he or she cannot fully take good care of others. A leaky ship cannot sail; an airplane with sketchy wings or an engine in need of repair will not keep its passengers safe in flight.
The same is true of caregivers, friends, companions. Self care and making sure you’re doing what’s right for you is not selfish.
It’s far from selfish in fact. Self-care helps you better take care of others and it helps you be a better giver, a better friend. Self-care is being honest with yourself and what you need, what is good for you and what is not good. Life is full of options and not all of them are a fit for every person.
I’m going to try to take you on a weekly journey of some of the process–the discovery, the healing and the road forward. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I think the path looks wide, clear and full of adventure.
Sharing what’s within can be difficult, if not painful, but if one person can find some help, solace, a discovery that might make their life a little better, the effort will be worth it.
Until next week, may your road be filled with peace!