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people-pleaser

I gave my power away to the sullen manicurist.  I was feeling beyond exhausted and kinda depressed and I just wanted someone to take care of me and unfortunately I set my sights on this woman in the cheapie nail salon.  It was like I turned my hand over to her and said “do me”.  Of course I didn’t actually say, that but I put my faith in her and she did an awful job.  The polish was all lumpy and streaky and she didn’t utter a word or crack a smile the entire time.  Numb, I paid and walked out, then burst into tears in the parking lot.  I was able to gather myself and go back in and approach the manager to get the girl to redo the paint job.  Of course I was allowed to but boy was my manicurist in a foul mood.  And in the end my nails still only looked so-so.  However I learned a lesson that day which is :  own your own power.
My problem is I am a total people-pleaser.  When I watch tv or a movie and a character  stands up for themselves (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel!) and rocks the boat causing conflict and chaos I am always so uncomfortable.  I want them to simmer down and keep their mouth shut.  But they don’t, and they deal with the consequences head on.  I am way too scared to do that.  So far.  But I aspire to more bravery.  I guess it all boils down to abandonment issues.  I imagine that if I don’t do what others expect of me they won’t like me and I’ll be left all on my own.  Ultimately I give them the power to decide my fate.  The only time I wasn’t like this was when I was a rebellious teenager.  On one hand it wasn’t very good because I was filled with anger, but on the other hand I did whatever the hell I wanted and stood up for myself. Sometime when I didn’t get my way I dealt with it in unhealthy ways like getting grounded, drinking, doing drugs, or running away from home but to a certain degree I need to take a page from my younger self’s book.
What I need is chutzpah.  I need to be the dominant not the submissive, but it feels so unnatural to me.  I had a boyfriend who wanted to get kinky in the bedroom and have me tie him up in complicated knots, bark commands at him, and spank him with a riding crop.  I did it but felt totally awkward.  It was actually kind of a turn off; I was left feeling cold and removed.  I couldn’t, or didn’t want to fake it.
I am even submissive(ish) with the dogs I care for which is a big no-no.  My usual approach is to smother them with love, which of course they eat up.  My dogs totally adore me – we get very attached.  But I am not much of a disciplinarian. I have a new client though who wants me to be strict with her dogs and not be overly affectionate or spoil them.  I am learning to do things like walk them only on my left side (God forbid not in front!), and pull up on the leash when they start to bark, not loosening until they capitulate and “sit”.   Logically, I know this is how I should be, but I am trying to think of a non-awkward way to get out of the relationship.
It bothers me that I am this way.  I really want to own my power and be assertive; to speak my mind in a situation and not give myself over to the other person like I did with the manicurist.  And I have a new trick.  My therapist told me whenever I have a submissive, self-shrinking thought and the urge to clam up instead of speak up, I am to imagine myself standing on a roof top and shouting through a big megaphone “I am here!”.  I like it.  I need to remember to do it, but when I do it feels good and I think it works.  I also try to remind myself “I am allowed”:   allowed to stand up for myself, allowed my own opinion, allowed to like a certain something or dislike something else.  I am allowed to take up space in this world.


Another solution that requires more time and effort, but goes deep, is to attend Adult Children Of Alcoholics meetings and work that program (ie get a sponsor, do the 12 steps, and share at meetings).  You probably didn’t know this, but ACA isn’t only for people whose parents were alcoholics or addicts.  It is for anyone at all who has a dysfunctional family and had a rough time growing up.  It all goes back to what I mentioned earlier:  abandonment issues.  One of the major characteristics of an ACA person is people-pleasing.  Of course ACA has a solution for that but it involves a lot of work and is a long yet healthy process.  It is incredibly healing.  I’m plugging away slowly at it but I see the positive results in others so I imagine it’ll work for me too.

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