When you think about it, it probably started a while back…
When you were small, you learned the power of a kind word… a smile… a touch.
It felt good to make other people feel good, but it did a lot more than that, too. Even at that tender age, you understood that you were saving yourself from having to deal with your mom in one of her moods.
You knew that if you just worked your magic to do what she wanted or needed from you in that moment, the rest of the day would go much more smoothly. So, you were the good little girl. You didn’t argue. You were sweet. You did what you were supposed to do without being asked.
You showed up – even if just emotionally…
…when no one else could.
It became almost a game to you.
You were more aware of your mom’s body language than your own feelings. If she moved in a certain way, or she used a certain tone of voice, you knew exactly what to do to fix it. Sure, it was a lot of responsibility, but it was also empowering. At that age, your parents are basically your whole world. If they’re upset, then things are chaotic and upsetting. But you had the power to fix it. If something in the world was amiss, you could do something about it.
If your parents were fighting or upset, you knew just how to come into the room and defuse the situation.
No more sitting scared in the other room waiting for them to figure it out. You could do more than just distract your younger siblings. You actually made a difference. You could make them happy.
Now that you’re an adult…
You’re a pro at dealing with difficult personalities.
At work, the hard clients get passed to you; and, like magic, you fix it. At home, you’re able to detect people’s moods before you’re even fully in the room.
You know when you can push and how much. You know how to soften the blow of difficult conversations.
And maybe you’ve connected the dots that this is a direct result of your hyper-focus on other people’s feelings when you were little.
You intuitively know when someone is upset, so you can adjust mid-sentence if there is a need. You can predict what will and will not land well, and it feels good to have the power to make people happy.
It’s honestly like a superpower… but it’s so exhausting!
Your “superpower” lets you know exactly what others need… at any given moment. Sure, that’s great…
It’s a huge amount of responsibility.
When you know how to make people happy, doesn’t that mean you should? After all, no one else really has the ability the way that you do.
Sometimes you’re tired.
Focusing so hard on everyone else all the time makes it hard to find time to know how you’re feeling or what you need. It feels selfish to take care of yourself when you know you could do what someone else needs you to do. But you can’t go on pretending like you don’t have any limits.
Sometimes you want someone to understand your circumstances, as you try so hard to do for them.
It’s all well and good that you can make everyone else feel good when they need it. But what about when you need something? You can feel the resentment building. You know that if the shoe were on the other foot, you would have picked up on it and responded – most of the time before they even ask. But here you are, silently screaming for help or support. Crickets…
Why saying “no” is such a conundrum…
You know how much it means to them. You know how much they need the help. You also know that you can do it.
So… you show up to the dinner. You go out with his friends again, because he really needs the support. You spend more time on the phone than you wanted to, because she was upset. You put off the hard conversations until they feel a bit more balanced. You can just suck it up for a bit.
I also value reliability, kindness, and gentleness in our relationships. I just think you also deserve those things from yourself.
You know you can say “no” to people, but…
Most of the time it’s just easier to say “yes.”
It makes them so happy. And you really don’t have the energy to deal with an argument or confrontation. And you don’t want to be seen as unreliable or selfish.
It’s temporary, right? But you’ve been in this “temporary” state of making sure everyone else is fine for as long as you can remember.
Loved, appreciated, and safe… you deserve that, too!
It’s not just for you to be secure for the people in your life. But part of that is learning how to set boundaries so that when you show up, the people who matter can get all of you.
The first step is to spend some time exploring what your boundaries even are. You’ve spent so long being hyper-aware of everyone else that you might not be able to answer that question right now. And that’s okay… but it’s a perfect place to start.
We’ll also talk about communication skills. We’ll walk through the “hows” and “whens” … and even some of the “what ifs.”
It’s never the right time to bring something up. Either I’m ruining a nice evening, or I’m making a bad day worse.
How do I even say that without sounding like an asshole? Doesn’t that make me sound selfish?
What if he gets mad? What if I go to all this trouble, and he doesn’t hear a damn word I said anyway?
But we also need to talk about that ball of apprehension that just materialized in your chest when we started talking about your standing up for yourself more. We will talk about why this is so scary and address that, too.
You learned when you were little that being that nice, sweet little girl was what kept you safe. It was why you were praised. It’s a big part of what you value in yourself, your ability to make other people happy. Believe me, I’m not interested in making you not safe. I’m not interested in taking away a part of yourself you value.
I just want to balance it so that you get your needs met, too.
This may sound like a dream, but it doesn’t have to be.
You can feel good about the way you show up for others and take care of yourself, too.
You can be truly available for your people when you show up, because you know that your needs are also getting met.
Call me today, and let’s see if I’m the right therapist for you: (703) 972-5705