Thursday, February 28, 2013

People pleasing? Not really.

My mom is arriving today and I am so looking forward to spending the day with her.  This morning, as I was getting dressed, I realized what a simple example I could use of how things have changed for me regarding the concept of "people pleasing".

This is often a classic trait in people with eating disorders (and "nice" people in the general population possibly resulting in anxiety disorders at some point, not always.  This blog is specific to my eating disorder recovery and the mindset that goes with it and part of my manifestation of symptoms had a lot to do with this characteristic); we want everyone to be okay even at the expense of ourselves.  I continue to want that but am finding a balance that keeps me in the equation too.

So!  My example!  I generally choose my clothes for the following day at night just because I don't want to be bothered with that decision in the morning.  Last night was no different.  This morning, I got up, showered, dressed and glanced in the mirror and would probably like to see you in something a little more girly.  I smiled because this thought came with no distress.  I ran through my options in my head and changed my clothes.  

In years gone by, since I was a little girl, I wore whatever my mom thought looked good on me even if I hated it.  I remember many outfits where I looked in the mirror and thought, "This is so dorky" or more often, "This makes me look chubby" (at as young as 7 that I can remember clearly).  Despite those thoughts, I would see my mom smiling proudly at how "cute" or "pretty" I looked or how lovely the fabric was, and regardless of how I felt about the clothes, I would choose what had lit her face up the most.  Sure, I would grumble frequently when I put on these outfits but frequently, I would walk out of my room, ready for school, and mom would tell me how lovely I looked.  I wanted so badly to be a daughter that she was proud of that if it meant wearing something I felt less than confident in, that was okay.  It seemed to make her happy.

I went through phases over the years - sometimes wearing things just to get a reaction from her that was less than positive.  Other times if mom said she liked to see me in pink, I would seek out a pink shirt or dress even if I really wanted a grey one.  

To clarify, there was never any negative intent behind her words.  I know now that she probably would have preferred if I had chosen what I liked best but I didn't ever voice my thoughts and feelings to her about this.

Today, the difference was subtle but existed.  I considered what my mom might think of my outfit and I'm sure she would have liked it, but, I knew I had something slightly more girly that would really make her smile to see me in.  I like both outfits, I bought them on my own volition!  What is the harm in choosing the one that I hadn't planned on wearing when I know it will bring a smile to her face?  There isn't any!

It's this equal worth - mine and her's - that finally exists that allows me to bend myself ever so slightly to enhance another person's experience.  Can I change something and have the situation still work well for me and possibly better for someone else?  How much am I willing to "bend"?

Today's situation is so simple but illustrates a way of being and thinking that is so drastically different than before.  I still want people to be okay, happy, and comfortable as much as possible, that is just me.  I do not identify as a "people pleaser" in a way that negatively impacts me anymore (any friend can attest to that, I'm sure).  If my mom would prefer to see me in long skirts and blouses, I would not likely accommodate that because as superficial as clothing is, it is how I present visually to the world and is a small aspect of my Self that is less often compromised these days.  

This way of thinking applies much more broadly and there are likely many more examples that I could use and might one day.  The point is:  I will not shrink and change and morph myself to extents that leave me out.  I also know that those that have my best interests in mind, would not want me to change for them - my mom would be happy to see me in sweats and a hoody today if that's what I felt like wearing - she doesn't actually care!  

What's most fun for me is that people might not ever know of the small things that were considered, in my world, for them but that's just part of honouring myself too.  I enjoy the thought and the result - like today, knowing my mom will smile and have a little comment and see me being me merely in a different outfit than I had chosen last night.

When it is done having equal value as everyone else in my life, I am not dragged down and stressed, I am built up and energized.

So, for you mom, this is as much girlishness I could muster and I know you're going to think it's "cute".  Love you.

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