Are you a mom, daughter, friend, girlfriend and/or wife? Do you ever feel pulled in many directions at once by all of your different relationships? Do you ever feel so pulled in so many different directions that you lose sight of yourself and what you really want, both in the moment and in the long game of your life?
What does this look like in real life? Maybe chronically saying “Oh, I don’t mind, whatever you/everyone else wants is fine”. Or maybe you stop to look at yourself one day and realizing that you aren’t anywhere near where you wanted to be in your life by now.
Chronic people pleasing is something that I have struggled with most of my life. I took on my first caregiving role at the age of 5 when it was decided that I would not go to kindergarten so I could stay home to help my mother’s second husband after his first major back surgery. She had already used up all of her time off while he was in the hospital and in the first days of him coming home. He was unable to stand unaided or get things for himself, so I stayed home from school to be an extra set of hands around the house. This may not have been the true start of my people-pleasing tendencies. I probably inherited and learned those from my mother and grandmother, both of whom are amazing women who have always put the needs of their families and loved ones before their own. But much like them, I have at times found myself to have no definite opinion about a lot of things that other people feel strongly about.
I used to try to justify this by saying, “no really, it honestly makes no difference to me at all if we get Chinese or pizza. I like both. I honestly don’t care”. And perhaps a single decision like that really doesn’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, but the cumulative effect of deferring to others and not exerting your own options and desires hundreds upon hundreds of times, day after day, throughout a lifetime, can leave you feeling like you have no true self to express any more. Who wants to work with someone who has no definite sense of self? Who wants to be married to a blank slate? And even more importantly, who wants to BE someone without a strongly centered self?
Your emotions, your reactions, your anxiety, your jealousy, your feelings about the things you encounter are all clues that you can use to find your way back to yourself. Then you can start truly honoring all of the relationships in your life by honoring the one you have with yourself first.
Wanting to learn more, both for myself and my audience, I went to Hilary Silver to get some answers. Hilary transitioned from brick and mortar counseling work to working online as a relationship expert and empowerment coach so she could reach more people who struggle both with their relationships with others and their relationship with themselves.
I asked Hilary what someone can do if they recognize themselves in the description above. Here are a few of Hilary’s tips.
It’s impossible to get what you want in your life and what you want from your relationships if you don’t know what you want. Once you figure out what you want, then you can figure out how to go after it and get it. A lot of people (moms anyone?) spend so much time taking care of everyone else that they lose touch with themselves so much that they don’t actually know what they want anymore. So tip one is to figure out what you want. Need help? Go on to tip 2.
Observe yourself. Watch yourself watch TV. What movies or commercials make you well up with tears or laugh out loud? What makes you angry or jealous? How do you feel when you watch shows about politics. Watch yourself in conversations with loved ones and with people you don’t like at all. Your emotions are your clues to the things that are most important to you.
If you don’t know what you want and don’t ask for it, you end up feeling resentful and being unhappy. Once you learn your truth, learn how to speak it effectively without cutting people off or alienating the people who aren’t used to you speaking your truth yet. Baby steps. Train everyone to treat you how you want to be treated.
If you feel resentful you haven’t said something you want to say, or you are doing something you don’t want to do, or you aren’t doing something that you do want to do, take control. You are responsible for making the changes required to get what you want and what you need in life.
Once you start saying the things you want to say and doing the things you want to do, EVERYTHING, in your life can change. And it will probably start changing faster than you ever thought possible.
Listen in on my entire conversation with Hilary Silver right here.