I used to describe myself as a people pleaser the way an interviewee would say their weakness is just being too committed to their work. I didn’t understand how detrimental it was to try to please people. To make people happy. That doesn’t sound bad, right? But what it did was put undue responsibility on myself to regulate other people’s emotions and tempers and views of who I was. Things that I had absolutely no ability to control. Still, I was consumed in wanting people, anyone really, to see me in a positive light, because my whole identity was hanging on that opinion.
In the midst of all this worry and anxiety about what other people thought about me, I lost my own voice. I didn’t set up healthy boundaries. I always had an excuse for others, but never excused myself. I would break down if someone confronted me about how they felt I needed to change or how I disappointed them in some way. Shame became the guide in my life, either by trying to avoid it or just letting it consume me.
Something changed over the last year. Along with learning to trust my own body, I started building space around me. Space to sit in stillness and listen to the Spirit’s whisper reminding me who I was. Reminding me that I had a voice of value. Reminding me that I no longer needed to let shame lead my decisions or overpower my thoughts. And as my voice grew louder, it had some things to say.
- I have the power to say no. Even if I have said yes in the past. Even if I said yes to begin with. I can still say no. This requires me to slow down and start listening to my body, to God, to my own bandwidth. No longer can I fill up my days with busyness. Busyness was a way I could escape from the shame and the guilt of not measuring up to other people. Saying yes until I was burnt out was how I showed others that I was dependable, to show that I cared. But I could never balance it all, and something else in my life would always be left wanting. So saying no gave me the power to create space.
- I purposefully create space. Space for body breaks. Space to sit with God and with my breath. Space for days when I do absolutely nothing. For me, one of those days is Monday. I don’t set appointments on Mondays. They are the days I recover from full weekends. I don’t do housework on Mondays. They are unproductive days to the outside eye, but they are so necessary. And if Monday doesn’t work, then it’s a different day. I’m not rigid in the structure, but I make sure that there are at least a couple days like this in my week. They are an important reminder that I have value even when I’m not producing. I get to just be me.
- I get to define me. When I was a young married, I would scour the internet and books for information on how to be a good whatever. Wife. Christian. Person, in general. I thought I needed some definition to fulfill. And if it wasn’t research, then it was how other people thought I was doing. Did they feel loved by me? Wanted? Respected? I measured my entire life on the opinions of others, whether in person or in word. But now, I have taken back that responsibility and acknowledge that right now, without a single change to who I am, I am a worthy and valuable individual.
- I stopped trying to constantly improve myself. What I mean by that is instead of feeling like I’m a broken thing that needs to be constantly fixed, I start with the idea that, “I am already good.” Maybe a bedtime routine needs tweaking, or maybe my lack of patience means I need more sleep, or I need to add an extra walk into my day, or maybe I don’t need that extra cup of coffee in the afternoon. But none of this takes away from the fact that I am already good. I don’t have to have it all figured out. Of course there is always something new to learn, something new to try, but I celebrate the things I’ve already learned and what I’ve already let go.
- I officially retire as a mind reader. For the longest time, I would anticipate other people’s feelings, desires and needs. I would get it right enough to think I was right every time. This doesn’t mean I have completely stopped caring about whether or not my actions or words hurt others. I take responsibility for causing pain or hurt, even unintentionally, to other people. But it is no longer my responsibility to regulate other people by trying to read into their tone or facial expressions or expect any kind of passive aggressive behavior. I want my words to be taken as truth so it’s only fair that I give others the same treatment.
I’m learning and growing every day. I am finally really giving myself grace, and not just one more chance to get it right. I’m not the girl I was yesterday, though I look at her as the beautiful heart that she was, willing to carry shame and blame for the sake of others. But I’m letting go of that shame and moving towards the person I was created to be. What I keep reminding myself is that I’m doing the best I can with every day God gives me on this earth. Letting go and learning to become the person that God created me to be on this lifelong journey.