10 October 2008


The next few posts (except Silent Saturday, of course) will be about those aspects of myself that I dislike and that I've had a hard time correcting. I tend to be such a negative, pessimistic person and maybe doing these few posts about the parts of me I dislike, I can then turn around and write about the parts of me I do like. This is therapy, people.

I have always been a pleaser. I think it stems from half of my family hating me. OK, maybe hate is a strong word. How about extreme dislike?

When you guys were kids, was there ever a time in your lives that you remember an adult not liking you, of being constantly displeased with you, just because of your presence? And if that ever happened to you, do you remember the utter confusion and frustration, the heartbreak of trying so desperately to figure out why those people, those adults, people you were supposed to look up to and admire and want to be when you grew up, hated you? You, a little kid. When it happened to me, I could never wrap my head around it.

I posted about my Aunt Joy a few months ago. You know, the one who couldn't have children of her own and when she found out her only sister was having me, she made it her goal in life to treat me like crap. Yeah, that one. Because of her jealousy of me and my mother, the rest of the family rallied around her hurt and pain and my mother and I fell along the wayside. I think this is where my need to constantly please comes from.

I can remember trying to be funny, creative, smart, helpful, or quiet - anything and everything that I could do to please the adult members of my mom's family, to make them less frustrated with me and more understanding. But nothing worked and I was so confused. This has now, I believe, carried over into my adult life.

I am constantly on the look-out for how to please people. Don't be too argumentative, then they won't like you. That person commented that I look good in coral! Going out to dinner with that person so I need to wear coral again. My alumnae group asked me to head a committee. I don't have time, but I don't want to say no - that may make someone angry. So, I should say yes. I also tend to keep what I truly think and feel close to my chest. I'm afraid that if I tell one friend that I disagree with her political leanings or if I tell another friend that that dress truly doesn't look good on her, that I'm going to lose those people, that I need to keep them happy in order to keep the balance. And oddly enough, it upsets me greatly when I find out someone doesn't like me. Even if that someone is a person I don't like, it will drive me to eat mounds of chocolate. That, I don't get.

I know, it's my problem. I get that. I'm owning that. And I'm finding that after 30-odd years of being a pleaser, it's exhausting trying to figure out what makes those around me happy and keeping them happy through my actions when, in fact, what I do probably goes unnoticed and said pleasing actions were pointless to begin with because those around me are fine with my presence, fine with my friendship, and find minimal fault with me.

Teaching an old dog new tricks is difficult and teaching an approaching-middle-age-SAHM to quit trying to please everybody all the time is even harder. I'm working on saying No! and I disagree! more but I still feel massive amounts of guilt whenever I do say no rather than yes. And I don't blame my family for that. I blame me for trying to make them happy when, in fact, they were never going to be happy with my presence. Finding a quiet corner and reading a book, staying out of their way, would have made much more sense.



RiverPoet said...

You're singing a tune I know very well. I am involved in a 12-step program right now, working on learning to stop being so doggone co-dependent. Amazingly, it's working, but I still have a long way to go. When I finally feel that I can sit down to a meal with my sister without worrying about the food I'm enjoying? I'll have recovered.

Somehow I can't imagine that happening at this moment, though.

I wish you well....Peace - D

Cricky said...

I was raised by someone who is a chronic-pleaser. She would literally stab herself if she thought it would make her older sister or her mother more proud of her.

It put a great deal of strain on our own relationship because everyone in my family automagically loved me. I didn't have to work to please them and she was jealous of that from the beginning.

Just try to remember to treat your children differently, no matter what.

Avitable said...

I am the same way.

Anonymous said...

You are so much braver than I am! I could never dissect myself like this... especially on my blog. I'm too afraid of what I'd find! :-)

Gypsy said...

I am so the same way, but I don't trace it back to quite the same thing. Mine is all wrapped up in fear of abandonment.


Know what, though? I like you just fine how you are. You can say no whenever you want, and if you think I'm wrong about something, just tell me. You'll be wrong, but whatever! ;)

Not Afraid to Use It said...

This happened with a few family members, but more often with parents of my classmates in school. It was awful because I knew they didn't like me, and I just couldn't figure out why. It gave me the constant walking-on-eggshells feeling. I know it is one of the reasons I was such a class clown. If you get them laughing, they (in theory) won't laugh at you.

As for the people pleasing issue, I struggle with it daily. I went through counseling in college, and when I stopped trying to be the family peacemaker my entire world exploded. I was the bitch. I was a wasting my parents' money for tuition because I was becoming "ruined". I still struggle with making friends because of all the reasons you mentioned. Just know that you can tell me anything you want. I am all for civilized discussion. And I know that is how you would do it--not yelling that I am a moron because I don't agree with you, but a productive meeting of the minds. Love ya, hon.

Liz Hill said...

I wish i could de-guilt you sugar.

HEATHER said...

I used to be a people pleaser until I owned my own business. It was then that I learned that NO MATTER what you do, there are some people that WILL NEVER be pleased no matter what you do.
That and Effexor helps too!

Anonymous said...

I've had (and still do to a certain extent, depending on the day) the same problem. It's gotten better with age and creeping crotchetiness.

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

RiverPoet - Yeah. Whenever I do decide to fix this problem, and be pro-active, I know it's going to be a long process.

Cricky - Miss-Miss, being outgoing, gets a lot of attention. J-man, being the youngest, get a good bit of attention as well. I make sure my quiet Bubba gets time each day as well. I don't ever want him to feel neglected. It's hard, though, with the quiet kids. He's such a sweetie.

Avitable - You? Really? I never would have thought.

Dave - I'm doing this so I can find something. Maybe this will help me. And inspire you to do the same? :)

Gypsy - HA! Thanks, hon. :)

NATUI - I love you too, hon. I think I need to work on being less of a pleaser and more of a "champion of honesty." No matter what the masses say.

Turnbaby - Thanks, hon. :)

Other Heather - You know, that does do it. Having to make sure you can pay the bills does make you a bit harder. And, you're right about the meds. :)

A Free Man - My mom has said that as she gets older, she's tired of taking shit from people. Maybe, by the time I'm 68, I'll be finished pleasing people, too! :)

Toasty said...

I admire you for being so open and working on yourself in this way. Can you be my therapist?

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

Toasty - Sure! But I can't prescribe medication. Sorry. :)

Anonymous said...

I totally see where you're coming from. My mind is so tired sometimes trying to remember the different things people like- so and so likes this candy, or commented on this top, or said they liked this but not that... just to make sure I "get it right" which i think is pretty much a people-pleasing attitude. Viva La RevoluciĆ³n!

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

SSG - Oh, I'm all about starting a Revolution! I'm in!

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

Evil Genius - OH! HON! I'm so very sorry. I just want to hug you and feed you large quantities of chocolate. Many, many hugs and much love to you, darlin'.