Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday Therapy: Phoenix Aspirations

Tuesday’s therapy session was weighed down with trying to help me manage on a day-to-day basis with W back in the house. It is a heavy burden. It is weighing me down mightily. It is a symptom of a much larger problem. It’s that same larger problem that pervades every corner of my life. It is ugly, and I am trying my damnedest to dig it up while at the same time doing everything in my power to ignore it. Ah, the joys of a twisted psyche.

I am a people pleaser. I have this insanely strong desire to please everyone, make everything right, to be the good girl, to earn the praises of being the best. I will twist myself up in pretzels trying to be whatever it is that someone wants me to be. Then I expect them to appreciate my efforts so much that they want to bend over backwards for me too. But they don’t bend over backwards being what I want. They are just who they genuinely are. I want to accept them just as they are. I want to just go with the flow. But then I want them to accept me just as I am. I want them to just go with the flow.

Now, cycle through that process a few times, get burned each and every time, and wonder what the hell is wrong. Stepping back and seeing it in black and white in that paragraph above it seems so obvious. Of course I can come close to pleasing others by turning myself inside out to be as close to what they want me to be as I can, but I can’t sustain it over time. I’m sure it is surprising as I change before their eyes into more of my real authentic self than the person I have tried and tried to be. One can hardly blame them for feeling deceived and disappointed, and rather than what they thought they were getting they have me. When I show my authentic self after winning them over with a totally different persona, of course they cannot be expected to be overly charmed with this stranger who has shown up in place of who they thought I was.

Yet I still don’t have the self confidence to present to the world my authentic self. It is deeply ingrained in me that I will never be good enough without putting on a disguise, hiding behind a persona that is not in the least like the real me. I remember as I was growing up I thought that I had no opinions of my own because I was so easily swayed in first one direction and then another. I look back and think that perhaps it was more open mindedness than having a lack of opinions. I could listen to one side of an argument and understand and empathize. Listening to the other side I could understand and empathize. It just took me a while to come around to deciding what I thought were right courses of action and wrong courses of action. I tend to think that those who are dead set on being right on issues at a young age are those who prefer not to think for themselves but have someone else they respect tell them how to think. I know it sounds like I’ve gotten off track here, but I haven’t. This is going somewhere. (I think.) Hang on.

Because I took time to form opinions, because I listened to all sides, because I was afraid that I would come off as wishy-washy or worse yet stupid for not knowing the right side of an issue to be on I would adopt the opinions of whomever I was around for the amount of time I was around them. It was a strategy that worked to a certain extent, at least it worked well enough that I was somewhat comfortable with it. What it also did was push me towards forming my own opinions, quietly though so as not to cause upset, as I would listen to arguments and in my mind shoot holes in them, listen to other points of view and shoot holes in them, and come up with my own individual synthesis of a viewpoint on an issue. The thing is though I rarely, if ever, spoke my viewpoints out loud. I rarely, if ever, went against the prevailing attitude of the crowd.

Is it any wonder people didn’t like me? Is it any wonder that they didn’t want me around? Why on earth did I think this strategy was working for me? On some level I knew it wasn’t, but I worked on changing the wrong thing. I tried to change myself to be more like what others wanted to see, to believe what others wanted me to believe. I tried to stop acting and genuinely change to be those things that I thought I needed to be to be accepted. However, that just didn’t work. Instead of changing the core being of me I needed to change my own perception of me. I needed to see that I was and am, just as I am, a valuable and worthy and decent human being. I needed to change my expectations of myself and what defined success and failure. I needed to loosen up and give myself permission to be ME, my authentic and genuinely true self. (Oh the irony that I picked that name when I started this blog.)

I have faults. We all do. I have to stop beating myself up about mine. I am doing myself no favors with all my negative self talk. As Stuart Smalley as it seems to me, I do understand that as long as I berate myself rather than praise myself I am hurting myself rather than helping. I may not go around repeating, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me." However, I’m going to try to stop going around repeating, “I’m a fucking idiot. I hate myself. How could I be so stupid?” (And yes, that is what I pretty much repeat to myself day in and day out.)

BTW, my dear imaginary internet friends, you are the folks that are keeping me from losing it altogether, even the most critical of you. You are proof that there is something redeeming in me, something worthy enough in me to keep you coming back here. There is something in me that’s positive, even if it is that I can provide an interesting, or humorous, or tragic, or moving inside look at a slow moving but very powerful train wreck. Of course, I may just turn out not to be a train wreck at all but a beautiful phoenix rising from the ashes somewhere down the road, and won’t that just surprise us all?


gniz said...

It wouldn't be surprising if you rise from the ashes.

Honestly, it sounds like you probably didn't get a lot of "unconditional love" type of feeling from your parents. That doesnt mean you were unloved, but you just might not have felt very loved or worthy.

My parents were very critical people and i was a sensitive kid. As a result, i was very very hard on myself. I think this happens to a lot of people.

Its not psychobabble, its not an excuse. its just the truth. If you take a lot of criticism or feel a lot of negativity when you are young, you internalize it. it can take a very long time to undo all that negative crap. Part of undoing it is seeing it for what it was. Understanding that there's really nothing bad or wrong with you.

If you start to do this work of seeing things more objectively, over time you will begin to gravitate towards more positive people, more healthy relationships. It happens naturally. You wont have interest in being around people that spout negativity and continue to make you feel bad about yourself.

And that will one day lead you to feel loved--for who you really are--by another human being. And when those two things combine (your own work in seeing yourself as good and worthy as well as another person who sees you that way), i think a lot of pieces will fall into place.

Anyway, there are many different routes and that is just one that i am familiar with. The important thing is to do the work, and you are. You are a good, worthy person--as most people are. Even if you've done some regrettable things--i know i sure have.

Keep fightin' the good fight--things will get better.


Val said...

Hey! I resent that 'imaginary' label!
[I'm sure my poor ponies would vouch for the reality of my mass & form!]
Sounds like you are making progress; I hope I am too [but precious little to no time to type these days]...
Lots of intangible love,
The Diaphanous Val

Jeni Angel said...

Wouldn't surprise me,

Cocotte said...

Hey - I thought this was going to be a post about one of my favorite cities :)

I TOTALLY agree with what gniz said. It's very difficult to undo the past. Wishing you well.