Friday, July 22, 2011

One Day at a Time

When I least expect it, my addiction to making people happy will rear up and kick me in the face, and I'm sent spinning. Thankfully, these dizzying spins are over faster than they used to be, as I talk myself down from the ledge (or have a friend do it) and eventually I regain my equilibrium. I suppose it will always work like this. For alcoholics, the lure of one drink can derail all of the progress they have made, and my people-pleasing addiction will likely haunt me for the rest of my life.

I met with someone recently who mentioned in passing that some people seem to have issues with me. Intellectually, I recognized this as true and responded that I've been learning to adjust to the idea that not everyone likes me, and that I'm really okay with this. Our intellect is often disconnected from our emotions, and when I later tried to pinpoint why I was feeling blue, this tiny snippet of conversation came back to me.

It's one thing to work through these fears and feel this pain on your own, but when it's brought to your attention outside of your own internal process, I think it always hurts. I would still prefer, in my heart of hearts, that people liked me. Sometimes I long to turn back the clock, to a time before I stood up for myself and drew boundaries and vocalized the kinds of things that were unacceptable to me.

But then I think about how much I've changed, and the price tag that was attached to that personal growth, and I realize anew that I will never go back to the way I used to be. I need to be free to be who I am, at all times, and without fear of the consequences. Not everyone has to like me (this is one of my personal twelve step mantras). It's okay to do what is right and healthy for me, and not everyone will agree with me, and they don't have to.

Maybe if I type it enough, in slightly different words each time, it will sink in and take root at the deepest core of my being. As a recovering people-pleaser addict, I have to extend grace to myself and recognize where my fears and anxieties can be triggered. I am not responsible for what other people do and say. I am only responsible for myself, and where I have made enemies, I can forgive myself and live at peace within myself.

One day at a time, as the addicts say, and I was addicted to being liked by others for a lot longer than I have learned to cut myself free from that pressure. The price was simply too high for me to pay, and I could no longer make my decisions based on being liked and popular. It had to be more about what was right and healthy for me, and less about what I perceived others needed me to be. Falling back into old fears is part of recovery, provided I reiterate my boundaries to myself and extend permission to hold them, whether or not I am liked by others.

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