In all the months of therapy, that I have had, since I was referred for help after my breakdown and diagnosis of anxiety disorder in 2013, one theme has come up, again and again, with my therapist talking me through how I handle life, and the wishes and expectations of others and the effect it has on my own mental health.
I am a people pleaser, by nature. I love making other people happy, and helping them. I love it when something I have done, meets the approval of others. I think that’s a normal human instinct, and part of our make up. However, when you are either trained, or it is ingrained in you that keeping everyone else happy, regardless of your own wants or needs, is how you should live your life, it becomes a control thing, and in my case, as probably in many others, it can put tremendous strain on your mental health.
I have spent a lot of time, in my life, trying to make other people happy, conforming myself to the needs and desires of others. In life, we do generally have to meet the needs of others, for example, our children. Sometimes my needs and wants come second to theirs, sometimes I will go out of my way to help others, before I meet my own needs, but a lot of my life has been about making other people happy, no matter what the cost is to me. Whether that is the cause of my anxiety issues, or whether I am a naturally anxious person, who tries to be a people pleaser and then struggles with the anxiety that that brings, I don’t know.
I spent many years after my mother died, in 1994, trying to be the person I think she would have wanted me to be, living my life in a way that would please her, or her ghost. This was not healthy, probably a reaction to her death, and the fact that we had not always had the easiest of relationships (being far too much alike) and that things had only just started to get easier, ironically when she became ill, and I wanted to keep that feeling.
I have spent much of my adult life trying to conform to the wishes and desires of others. I have tried to please people, and meet their desires and expectations, and because of course, it is not always possible to do that, and you can never make everyone happy, all the time, I find myself in the position of being an anxious person, desperately trying to be myself but terrified that those around my will not be happy and that I won’t be meeting what they want or expect for me.
What I do know is that I need to learn to look after myself, and I need to accept who I am, and whilst it is legitimate to want to look after people, please people, help people and make them happy, I simply cannot sacrifice myself for the wants and needs of others.
My therapist kept telling me “you are NOT responsible for the unmet needs and disappointments of the previous generation. You MUST choose your own path, you cannot live your life trying to please others and trying to fulfill their expectations at the expense of your own mental health”. She was and still is right.
It’s taken me 39, almost 40 years to realize this. It’s hard to try and change, to put down boundaries, to think of myself, or the needs of my own immediate loved ones, over the wants and needs of others who don’t really have a legitimate hold on my life. To accept that I am who I am, that what I am doing in my life is good, and I am living my life, growing my own family, for them, and for us, and not for anyone else.
It’s not easy, learning to retrain my mind, but I am working on it. I grow better every day. I grow stronger, I stand up for myself. I set a better example for my children, and most importantly I am teaching them that they too need to live life for themselves, and not spend life trying to please everyone else at their own expense. Teaching them to be loving, caring, amazing people, but not people who can be broken by the wishes of others. Something I wish I had been able to learn, a long time ago.
I am brave, I am strong #Iamnotbroken