Saturday, August 29, 2015

To All the People Pleasers Out There

"We must not confuse the command to love with the disease to please." - Lisa Terkeurst

I've had a two-part revelation, and it is one that I am still trying to fully grasp and make sense of in my own life. The first part comes down to two words: People Pleaser.

I've been a people pleaser for nearly twenty years. It was how I grew up. I've learned as an adult that it comes from the need to feel accepted while at the same time, proving myself to others. What I tend to be left with are feelings of anxiety that I am not nor will I ever be good enough...for my friends, my job, even my family at times. Once let in, anxiety wraps itself around your mind, snakes down through your heart and settles in the pit of your stomach. I should know. I've lived with anxiety for as long as I can remember. It has become such a common feeling that I don't know what it is like not to feel anxiety anymore.

I had never labeled myself as a people pleaser. It actually came about in the form of an innocent bulletin board decoration when I was thirteen years old. Each of my classmates and I were compared to an object that fit our personality, according to a few of our classmates who were in charge of putting it together. Someone was a stapler, I remember. I went up to the board and looked for my name. Another student saw it first and exclaimed that it was a perfect description. It must be something awesome!  I thought as I found my name. There it was- Little Debbie snack cake "because she pleases everyone." Someone else read it and was quick to say that it was true because I was such a people pleaser. At the time, I embraced that label and didn't think twice that maybe being a people pleaser wasn't necessarily a good thing.

Years later, in college, I was sorting through old folders and tubs of school papers, artwork, and notebooks from my childhood. Stuck in my junior high art folder was the small slip of paper that had been stapled to the bulletin board all those years ago. When I read it then, my heart sank to my stomach, and I felt disappointed. I had forgotten about that label, but I saw how it had affected me through the years. I crumpled up the paper and threw it in the trash with old math papers and science notes. Unfortunately, we don't always take those moments to heart. We continue to live with whatever labels we let the world give us. At least that is what happened in my case. More years of trying to please others followed until one day, I found myself in a place where it was not enough. The aftermath of that situation left me broken, and when I realized all my years of people pleasing had been in vain, anxiety drew itself around my heart and mind stronger than before.

In the name of being vulnerable, three years later, I still fight being a people pleaser. It isn't that I am
not sincere in my efforts; I work hard and try to be the best at what I do in all areas of my life- employee, friend, sister, and daughter. The problem is that it is not always enough and never will be. I am accepted by those around me, but I don't see it because I can't accept myself for who I am. I don't have to prove anything to the people in my life, but still I try. And it's never good enough. I mess up. I fail at tasks, at being a good sister or daughter. Then I let the anxiety taunt me and wreak havoc inside. It is time to see that being a people pleaser really is a disease. I have to love the people in my life enough to trust them and not compare them to past relationships. I have to take control of the anxiety that has set up residence inside of me and get rid of it. Just as importantly, I have to learn to know and accept who I am, then love and embrace that person.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Our Hearts Are Very, Very Old Friends

Camping Trip with our Moms' family
In Kindergarten, my cousin Amber and I were best friends. We tricked substitute teachers into letting us put our sleeping mats next to each other at nap, I helped her with spelling words, and she rewrote my answers because she had better handwriting. We even shared a boyfriend. (Remember, this was Kindergarten.) We were inseparable. One day, we had one of our first fights (aside from the normal "bickering", as my grandma called it). She came up to me at my desk, and while we were talking, I sat there opening and closing my scissors (the Fiskars real blade scissors), facing them out towards her. What I didn't realize was that I was actually cutting a hole in her shirt. I remember the panic and guilt that consumed me when I realized what had happened. The fact that she was going to not only tell the teacher, but my Aunt Donna and Mom, made me so scared. It was an accident, but I was at fault, so there really was no way to get out of it. We ended up fighting, Amber thinking I did it on purpose and my response being that I didn't but she shouldn't have been standing so close to me. Our other friends couldn't see how I didn't realize what I was doing. It ended in tears on both sides, and we didn't talk for the rest of the day, even when she came to my house after school. 
At my niece's 1st birthday party 

That was my first friendship "breakup", so to speak. I thought we were never going to be friends again. What I didn't know then is that tomorrow was a new day. My aunt fixed the shirt, Mom had me apologize, and Amber and I were friends again. This would be the first of a few "breakups" between us. Those breakups didn't last though. We are now closer than we were as children and I know that I can tell her anything and she will be there for me, and I am there for her.

Walking through life, we come across many types of friendships. Some friendships are formed as children or are made while navigating the teenage years. Others are based on location, location, location. Where you work at the time, the town you live in, or the college you attend. Even relatives can easily blend between family member and friend. I've come to find that the phrase "Best Friends Forever", used so openly and freely, is not always the case. People move on or away, lives drift in different directions, and communication becomes sparse if anything at all. There's also the breakups when our friendships don't survive but instead die.

Sometimes, however, we are fortuitous enough to find that friend who connects with your soul, and it doesn't matter if you live in the same town or see each other on a regular basis. These are kindred spirits, the companions that will walk life out with you, near or far. I am privileged to have found that in my friend, Serenity. I can pinpoint in my mind when our lives connected and not just over a love for Anne Shirley or the television show Friends. She is one of few in my life that I can truly say has proven to be a lasting friendship, a true soul connection. Our conversation didn't stop when I moved 2000 miles across the country or when she was going through treatment for cancer. Serenity once told me, "Our conversation is what happens when two friends are friends no matter what, unconditionally, because they love each other." That is a kindred soul.
Oscar Noms: Double Movie Date

We are lucky to be in the same town now, meeting weekly for lunches and adding in other fun adventures when possible. I know that when the time comes, and we aren't in the same town again, that won't matter. Our friendship isn't kept alive by eating lunch together or going to the movies. Don't get me wrong. I love those highlights and will miss them greatly, but I know we won't have a "breakup" or drift apart because we aren't in the same town anymore. As Hafiz wrote, "Your heart and my heart are very, very old friends." 

Happy birthday to you, Serenity. Thank you for being my soul connection and the best friend a girl could ask for.