As I continue on my healing journey, I can see now how much I people-pleased, because I was so afraid of someone being mad at me, or not liking me at all. I would therefore say yes to tasks or duties that I didn’t want to partake in, or I would neglect my own priorities in order to make other people happy. This was ultimately a lack of boundaries, which at times happened because I would get swept up in the moment, and just so happy to connect with someone. Other people’s comfort ended up mattering more to me than my own. And while this can appear nice, it doesn’t work when trying to make goals.
I also lacked the boundaries needed to put my own work first, because I was so afraid of someone talking badly about me, or being annoyed with me. One of the greatest things I learned in my recovery is the saying, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” Once I learned that even with the best of intentions, the most carefully selected words, the most well thought-out responses, I can still do or say, or not say or not do, something that offends someone, or doesn’t meet their need. Letting go of the outcome, and letting go of other people’s judgements, has been one way that’s helped free me from my people-pleasing tendencies.
Now as I enter a new phase of my development, and I reemerge from months of lockdown, I strive to maintain my priorities, which can be challenging. To be able to say no, to be able to stand up for myself, which in turn might cause offence or displeasure to someone, has been a huge undertaking that is winning me peace. I have had to really affirm that I am taking care of my mental health (which will reflect in my physical health), and this also includes being compassionate with myself.
Part of saying no, part of establishing and maintaining boundaries, can have pushback, even with myself. I want to go on the attack, and call myself lazy, unmotivated, or impoverished. But I pause and look at the reality of the situation instead, and see that I am none of those things, and that being mean to myself isn’t helpful. Rather, I find courage, motivation, and abundance within myself, and bring it out to show up in this world with enthusiasm and resiliency. This is what my work today is all about.
When I make a plan, and when I accept that my plan might not allow me to realistically put everyone who I want to put first in that place all the time, I can take a moment to reflect on those feelings, and as Marshall Rosenberg wrote in Nonviolent Communication, observe the situation, instead of evaluate it. Placing boundaries doesn’t mean that I care about anyone less, it just means that I have a goal, and I want to achieve it.
Having a vision, having boundaries, and having the self-compassion to see my work through, gives me a blueprint for success that allows me to show up 100% of the time, even when my people-pleasing habits want to diminish my efforts. Slow living and valuing myself have been two skills that I have developed this past year, and it is worth the discomfort of learning to exist in an alternative paradigm that I suspect in time will become more commonplace as we continue to navigate a pandemic-ridden world, and make plans for the other side of it.