Sometimes, you receive a wake-up call when you least expect it.
I’m someone that works so hard at being organized that, sometimes I’ll admit, I fall short.
I try to do it all, for everyone around me including myself, but I’m really only human. I believe my official “diagnosis” is a “people pleaser”. It’s a trait that’s followed me for as long as I can remember – I always want to stand out, be recognized as the one that did something great. I remember being like that since I was a kid, but this habit developed into some really anxious behaviors, to my surprise.
This habit started at a young age, as I was NOT the cool kid… at all.
I found that by doing great things for people, people would like me. Sounds petty now, but for a very uncool 7, 9, 12, 16 year old kid – it worked. It’s how I built a social life, and how people recognized me as the person that does great things for other people. I was nice, thoughtful, creative, and made people smile. At that age, I didn’t know the difference – I just knew I loved to make people smile, genuinely. I loved doing for others, and didn’t see the darkness of this, only the good outcomes.
It’s an amazing trait, to do for others. It is. And I still do now.
But it has to come with a side of balance.
In my case, over time, this behavior caused me to create imaginary expectations, or myself and others.
Let me break it down:
The average person who enjoys acts of kindness would think to themselves: “I’m going to go visit my mother and I’ll surprise her with a tea” for example. That’s awesome!!! What a nice gesture.
BUT my brain likes to go beyond that, so it’ll start there and end at:
“I’m going to go visit my mother and I’ll surprise her with a tea, but also some groceries and I’ll bring what I need to fix that shirt she said had a hole, and that book she wanted to borrow”. As I always stack my plate too high, I will likely not be able to do ALL of that and then will feel terrible about myself for “failing” at it. So I only show up with tea, but I feel terrible that I didn’t do the rest. My anxiety rises, I feel like I’m a bad daughter, and it changes my entire day’s rhythm. Meanwhile, whatever the thing is, mom wasn’t expecting it, doesn’t need it, and is perfectly happy without it.
So I’ve ended up working myself up for absolutely nothing.
Mom’s only expectation of me, ever, is that she just wants her daughter to be kind to herself, and would rather I do less for her, if that means I’m taking better care of her baby: me. #OnlyChild
Of course, this is a very simplified example but you get the idea.
I come up with one good idea but then I decide I should do 6 of them instead of fall on my face trying to achieve this impossible feat, when NO ONE EXPECTS IT OF ME IN THE FIRST PLACE. This is a simple example but it’s the best way to explain how I actually cause my own anxiety and I become very hard on myself for failing at meeting an expectation that didn’t exist in the first place. And the other thing is, sometimes, it’s even annoying for other people if I do for them something they were planning to do themselves as there’s an angle of that behavior that is controlling as well. Unintentionally, but still.
Wow. Moment of pure clarity… and shame. Ouch.
As soon as I realized this, I realized that this had happened a million times before and suddenly I had two simultaneous opposing feelings: “Oh, it all makes sense.” and “Why do I keep doing that?”
This would usually be followed by a string of internal self-judgement.
So I took a step back, to look at the big picture. I am a good person with often too kind of a heart, but I must slow down and not “try so hard” to please everyone around me, for the following reasons:
a) some people want to get their shit done themselves
b) it’s not my job to do everything for everyone else
c) no one expects me to do more than what I can.
d) If I do too much for others, the little things won’t have as much impact
e) my friends and family prefer a calm relaxed me, without the extras, then a wound up anxious me.
It’s not my job to make people happy – they make themselves happy. I can surprise people with kind gestures, but I don’t need to take on their to-do list when I can barely get to my own half the time. That’s not beneficial for anybody!!! I do not have enough spoons to get everyone else’s to-do list done and it’s not my job to do so. I can be helpful with balance! This, for me, is all about balance.
Awareness is good. I don’t always like what I find, when I start looking inside of myself, but it’s better to know as knowing and acknowledging leads to healing. This is something I have to heal.
No one around me expects anything else than for me to a kind person, a good partner, a good daughter and family member, and a good co-worker. That’s really the only bar that’s set.
I just have to stay aware of the bar that I set for myself – it doesn’t need to be higher.
My behavior is that I want to do too much for others, then if I fall short, it changes my attitude and then I’m harder to be around while I stew in my own judgement. This means that in that moment, instead of doing the thing that no one expected of me in the first place, I’m anxious, in a bad mood and hard to be around, when all of this could have been avoided in the first place. Eye opening, right?
*Deep breath* It’s hard to look at yourself with all your flaws sometimes.
But awareness is good. Healing will come.
So, where do I go from here? My guess … simplicity and kindness.
Taking a step back and allowing people around me to live their lives at their rythm. I don’t need to do for them, what they can already do for themselves. I do not need to control that, which I never realized I was doing, but in a way, I was. I don’t need to be a super hero, just a good friend, daughter and partner. So basically, I have to find the balance between cute surprises and “taking over”. Ha!
Yet another lesson that balance is key.
Thanks for reading,