It is strange when motherhood flutters up flashbacks of my high school crush. The beautiful theatre star I would have done anything to please. (Embarrassingly, there was more than just one guy but for simplicity I'll streamline.)
All my 16 year old heart craved was his approval, attention and a wedding ring. I sat in the hallway waiting to give him a ride home after class. When he broke his arm I drove him to doctor appointments, baseball practice, wrote his english papers for him.
I was happy to be his right hand man. Now that I think about it, I think I even helped him shop for just the right rugby shirt to wear on a weekend date with a girl who wasn't me. smh
"No" was never a word he'd hear pass through my lips. And on the flip side, "Would you like to go out on a date?" were never words passed through his. I watched him ask every girl under the stars to date. In return I'd only get "Can you come over and help me clean my fish tank?”
I jumped at the chance to lay on the ground in front of him. Proud to provide a place for him to wipe his feet. He wasn't a jerk. He just knew what to do with a doormat.
So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised last year when I realized that the doormat I call me was neatly laid out under some smaller feet.
"How did I become my kid’s bitch?"
- "Mom, I forgot I need treats for Spanish class. IN 15 MINUTES!”
- "Mom, can you pleeeease drive my friends and me to the movies? Nobody else’s parents are home, so we’ll need a ride home too.”
- “Mom, I know it’s bedtime, but forgot I need 25 cupcakes for my school project tomorrow.”
It's my life goal to help my daughters grow into shiny happy people with their own life goals. So it was pretty blinding when the entitlement I allow them to wear shined it's bright light in my face. My people pleasing wasn't helping them become decent humans. It was showing them that my life didn't matter. And if my life didn't matter why should their life matter?
I understand my kids have true needs. Just like the beautiful boy I chased in high school. He really couldn't write an english paper with his arm in a cast. My kids really can't walk home from the movie theater after dark. My kids aren't jerks and the hottie in high school isn't either. (Well, he might have been.)
Bottom line. The problem was never them. It was me.
Hello. My name is Hallie and I'm a recovering people pleaser.
For many years, losing myself by pleasing the people was a survival tactic. When I filled my days with scurry it left little time to be myself. I wasn't lost. I just wasn't developed. I only knew enough about myself to know I had no idea who I was. Follow that? My favorite color is blue. The ocean fills my soul. I get less airsick in an aisle seat. I knew my preferences.
But my core was a stranger.
When I became a mom, people pleasing was the most familiar tool in my belt. So I clung to it tightly. Motherhood is a people pleasing magnet. It worked nicely when my babies were babies. They couldn't do anything. I could do everything. So everything I did. But now they can feed themselves and make to-do lists…and teaching them to know they can rely on themselves is the greatest gift I can give them.
To change any habit you need to know where it came from. After a little digging, I pinpointed the moment my people pleasing ways were born. One beautiful Sunday morning over three decades ago, my family sat down at our kitchen table and after a bit of awkward small talk, my dad told us he and my mom weren't going to be married anymore. The conversation ended as quickly as it began. A life shaping fact abruptly thrown into the air above our empty placemats. His words just sat there quiet and alone for my underdeveloped 10 year old brain to translate. I love my parents. I love how my imperfect life shaped who I am. There's no blame in my heart. But everyone in my family picked up a new role that day and mine is no longer serving me.
Suddenly my favorite childhood feeling was missing. Nobody picked happy that day. So I quickly swooped in and made it my bestie. From that day on I worked overtime to fill my role as happy hallie. To be honest, it wasn't super virtuous of me. Making others happy was an effort to make me happy. It was a decision that helped me survive. But 38 years later it's gotten rather tiring. Now I know that being happy with myself is the greatest gift I can give to anyone I meet. Because we all make our own happy. It's an inside job.
My first step as I slay this people pleasing dragon is to really buddy up with the N word. The good one. The one I had such a broken relationship with all my life. No. A few months ago, I could have used a Rosetta Stone course on how to pronounce this two letter tongue twister. But it's getting easier. I put myself first, not out of selfishness, but out of self-preservation.
At first it was especially hard to say no to my kids. The whining was uncomfortable and tbh sometimes I still cave and give in. But I give myself grace and slowly have become more comfortable standing in my integrity. And so are they. By putting myself first in life I am giving them permission to put themselves first in their own life.