I was a people pleaser for too long. Now, I am recovering and moving toward living an authentic life. Even while I am a mom.
People whom I admire kept talking about how something almost magical happens at 40. Self confidence is gained. Worry about what others think is lost. Living life to please others disappears. After 40, I believed, we start to live differently. I could not have understood, however, what that would look like for me.
I am a recovering people pleaser. I spent the first 35 or so years (less maybe the first 6 months of my life I suppose) making sure I said, acted, and lived in a way that was pleasing to others- all the others. I kept friendships that exhausted me. I participated in groups and hobbies that I dreaded. I quieted myself down at a very young age.
It was the quieting down that squelched me. I became diplomatic- like so diplomatic that I did not dare upset a single apple, never mind a whole cart. This meant keeping my opinions and thoughts (save a few safe spaces) to myself. It meant laughing softly instead of in splendor. It meant hiding my boldness and becoming totally inauthentic.
It’s a Learned Behavior
We girls learn this at a very early age. I can think back to specific memories- teachers, friends’ parents, relatives, priests, CCD teachers, coaches who reminded me of my place in this world. I wanted to be liked. I wanted boys to like me. I wanted to be desirable in the right way to everyone, so I took the message and lived in the way that was expected of me.
I was a full-fledged people pleaser and it was awful. I was disconnected from my own life. It’s cliche, I know, but I had no idea who I was. I did not know joy.
Becoming a mother put any hopes of finding out who I was on hold- at least I thought. I mean, I was focused on two babies, just 26 months apart. Breastfeeding, snacks, bathrooming, a family bed with different sleep schedules… what hope did I have for finding myself while being a mother (a life-long commitment)?
I was introduced to a different way to live with my children and everything changed. It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t magic. Instead of making things easier, initially it made them harder. I had to face my own stuff. I had to take responsibility for the person I had become- the yelling, the snapping… I had to face the monster mother I was and examine what created her.
It was hard. It took work. It took rethinking everything I knew. It took time.
People Pleaser to Authentic
Here I am, entering my 42nd year and I have been slowly getting comfortable living for myself. I no longer fit the description of what makes a “nice” girl. I am not desirable to a lot of people- a bitch, in fact.
I swear. I speak up. I leave conversations where injustice is perpetuated. I do not back down in a conversation simply because the other participant is male. I no longer laugh at things I do not find funny. If I am not interested in a conversation I do not carry it on. I say “no” to plans that fill me with dread. I am comfortable in my own overweight, unfit, and unpleasing to the beauty industry body. I wear leggings. I wear make-up sometimes. I eat foods that make me happy and try to include foods that keep me healthy.
I am also kind, supportive, direct, generous, and considerate. Did you know all of those things can coexist in a single person? I didn’t.
A Happy Ending
The joy I feel now, at 42, is doing a whole lot more good for the world than when I shrunk into the tininess and quietness of being a people pleaser. My goal is to live out loud. It’s a long way off for me, but I can see it out there in the distance. I see what it looks like. I feel what it feels like. The energy, positivity, creativity, and joy are just over there- on the other side of work and fear.
So I am going for it. I am going for it for myself and my daughter. I am going for it because I know now that happiness, authenticity, and genuine living does really good things for the world. I am going for it because I am sick and tired of falling back into the requirements of living a life designed for me by someone else- fuck that. I’m designing my own.
Please hold me accountable.