Decisions are tough.
Knowing what you need is tough.
So, deciding what’s best for you in any situation is fricken hard.
I’ve never defined myself a “people pleaser.” In fact, that description makes me scrunch my nose and mouth and avoid eye-contact with those two words at once. People-pleasers have always driven me mad as I have found myself screaming at friend after friend, “Don’t you know you can’t make everyone happy?! Don’t you know you only end up hurting yourself in the process?! Don’t you know this is the number one way to go crazy?!?!”
Still, I’d roll my eyes as I listened to them say “I know, I know” and continue on their path of trying to split their one flower into one-too-many petals to give away. Eventually just a wilted stem would remain, and the petals would get lost in the exchange making the whole process a moot point anyway.
This was something I have known never to get involved with, and I prided myself in my ability to not be suckered into guilt trips or the cares of what other’s expect from me. I saw myself as a strong, independent woman who does what she wants!
This was just a phase, and I have now entered the phase of the people-pleaser. Everything I used to spout at my friends? All true, but now I find myself trying to spread the flower farther than it’s petals can go, and it hurts.
See, the same time my summer college courses started up was when a friend came to stay for two weeks and family came to visit for a week.
Enter panic attack number one and anger.
I was angry at my family for having the audacity to not contact me about my schedule when it was clearly “friend time” and not “family time” on my end. When I couldn’t reschedule the friend’s visit, anger transformed to “people pleaser” as I cried over potentially hurting my family’s feelings over not having time to hang out at grandma’s all week, day-and-night, like I’m known to do when they’re down. Yet I refused to succumb to People Pleasing Eve and decided that I would stick with my original plan of focusing on the friend, and if I could make time for family, well great.
This sounds prettier than it was, because summer college courses take an immense amount of time. I didn’t work, so I had the time, but this meant I had only a smidgens of time for Friend and none for Family. People Pleasing Eve was sick to her stomach with thoughts like, they’re never going to understand, they’re going to think I’m a horrible person, and finally the desperate what should I do?!
I could write a book on this story, believe me, because it was the longest week-and-a-half of my life.
Let me answer my own question of “What Should I do?”: do what you need, not what they want.
This is a lot easier said than done, because it’s a heck of a puzzle differentiating the two, but if you can just think about you for a few minutes, it comes.
Ask yourself: What can you do? Right now? This week? What do you want to do? You might be pained because you can’t do it though you want to; you might not want to but know you could; you may feel an obligation.
When there is something causing you physical illness and/or emotional pain over a decision, you need to focus on these feelings and why they are here. That’s the only way the right decision will be made. By “right,” I don’t mean right for someone else, I mean right for you, because this is about you right now. Just you, because your needs and wants matter just as much as [insert title here]’s expectations.
I had Friend in my ear about how we were going to have no time and no fun due to my school and Family in my ear asking when I would make an appearance. There were many panic attacks, shouting matches, tears, and terrible, gut-wrenching guilt on my behalf.
In my effort to bleed myself dry to make everyone happy (which I failed miserably at) I became an exhausted, chronic-stomach-ached mess.
Less than halfway through Friend’s visit I reached a point where I debated whether I was going mentally insane. This was my breaking point. Where I allowed myself to say, “Screw it and screw everyone, I’m doing what I want and what I want only.” Careful with this phrase, because it could lead to some hazardous paths, but in my moment of crazed people-pleaser, it was absolutely necessary.
I have never granted myself such permission. Not only did it feel wonderful, but it led more self-permission and, ultimately, my sanity (not being dramatic–I really thought this was lost).
I’m still in the phase of the people-pleaser, and there are many days where my stomach is in knots over the opposing decisions, but this only reminds me to focus on what I need, want, and can accomplish. Sometimes I spread myself too thin, but I always find my balance, and when you find that balance and grant that permission, you’ll feel it graciously within you.