I’m just not honest with myself or with others about what I need. I spend so much time trying to keep everyone happy, that I’ve lost myself along the way. I took a quiz in the book yesterday Who’s Pulling Your Strings? The results of the test proved what I already knew. I’m a prime target for manipulation.
It’s easy to fall into a victim mentality and place all the blame on the manipulator who made a conscious choice to deceive me. But this would be as destructive as continuing to stay in the abuse. There is a reason I was a prime target for a manipulator. I know I need to continue to work through those reasons, so I won’t be a target again.
I really do struggle with an addiction. Chronic niceness. Keeping others happy at the cost of my own happiness. People pleasing. The roots run far deeper than I wanted to acknowledge they did. The truth is something caused me to give my dignity away, and I know I need to recognize what in order to continue the healing process.
My own kids are my best teachers. My oldest son, who is now 21 drove me bonkers throughout his toddler years. He is my most hard headed and determined kid. He would fight me what felt like to the death when he did or didn’t want to do something. For example, one night during his toddler years we asked him to pick up his toys. He continually said no. Finally his dad and I did the one thing we knew would upset him enough to pick up his toys. We made him stand outside on our back porch in the dark. He screamed and kicked and banged on the door. We kept asking him if he’d pick up his toys and he’d say no over and over until finally being in the dark was worse than doing what we’d ask. After several minutes that seemed like forever our son came inside and picked up his toys and was so tired from his fit that he went straight to bed. I used to think my son was going to have a hard life as hard headed as he was, but the truth is he is amazingly well adjusted and I have actually come to admire his determination.
My younger son is incredibly picky. He wants a certain brand of salad dressing for his sandwich. His clothing needs to be a specific name brand and fit a certain way. And let’s don’t even talk about shoes. Just try to get him to wear a pair from a discount store and I am in for a battle of a lifetime. I finally had to meet half way and get the $100 shoes he wanted off of eBay. Sometimes it drives me crazy. But as I write this I wish I had a little more of his determination.
My daughter is so much like me. She is a pleasure to be around most of the time. Last night she did the dishes, because she knew I didn’t feel well. She is concerned about others happiness, and asks what is wrong when she senses a problem. She has been the easiest of all of my children. Yet she has also struggled the most.
When we went to register her for her new school the administrator told us they had very few discipline problems at their school. Most of the kids that are there are incredibly kind. Many of them have been mistreated by other kids. Many are like my daughter and don’t know how to fit in.
Thinking about my kids I wonder if it’s all just a matter of personality or if there is more to the reason my daughter is kind to her own detriment sometimes. I grew up in the south. Kindness is a way of life. Nice people are the salt of the earth. Niceness seems like a good thing, and it is, but when a person feels the need to keep others happy at the price of their own something is very wrong.
Self sacrifice was never meant to result in losing one’s dignity. We should be able to love and give without losing our souls.
Before my daughter turned five and suffered from sexual abuse, she was a lot more determined. She was my happy, smiling child, still a pleasure to be around, but when she got mad everyone knew it. She had more fight in her than her twin brother two minutes older than her and she let him know it. Then a 14 year old boy decided he needed to get his selfish sexual needs met through her and she began hiding under tables and sucking her thumb. Something very valuable was stolen from her, and as a result she didn’t feel safe. Fear entered the picture and I believe in an effort to feel safe my daughter began doing what she could to keep everyone happy with her.
And I recognize that I do the same thing.
It goes back to self contempt. We blame ourselves for the abuse that happened to us, because at the time that feels like the only control we have. Life feels safer when we are doing things that keep others happy. If we don’t upset someone else maybe we won’t get hurt. If we do what pleases others maybe they won’t see how bad we really are.
But it’s all a lie. My little girl wasn’t bad. She didn’t ask for the abuse. The 14 year old boy did a very bad thing. I wasn’t bad either. My adopted father was a very sick man who did very bad things to me.
I wonder sometimes what motivates victimizers to victimize. I think quite possibly it comes from the same place people pleasing and chronic niceness do. A place of control and a loss of identity. A place of self contempt.
This thought scares me to death, because I know nothing good comes from control and self contempt.
Good comes from being the person God created me to be even if it means others aren’t happy about it. Even if it means I have to deal with conflict and discomfort that doesn’t feel safe.
I can see Jesus going through the temple with a whip in His hand chasing out the money changers, talking to the woman at the well in a town they should have avoided altogether, declaring to the Pharisees that they were a brood of vipers. Jesus wasn’t a people pleaser. He wasn’t concerned about others being unhappy with Him. His focus was on doing His Father’s will and being the Savior to us all.
Jesus loved us without changing who He was. Actually, His love changes us and reveals who we really are.
I recognize at this stage in my life God is calling me to trust Him in my relationships with other people. He knows how I’ve lost myself in trying to keep others happy. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be.
I’m realizing Jesus has covered me in His righteousness. There is nothing to be ashamed of. It is finished. I am free to be the person He created me to be.
But will I trust Him to do so?
I cannot do it on my own, but I see my problem clearly. People pleasing is killing my dignity and stealing from all God wants for me. It’s a tool of the evil one dressed as an angel of kindness and I need God’s help and wisdom to deal with it my life, so I can guide my daughter in the same.
I wrote a blog Desperate Hearts two days ago. I still believe we need to give others compassion, understanding and kindness. I gave all of these things to the young man pursuing my daughter, however I recognize the importance, and have encouraged her that the best thing she can give him is boundaries. His heart may be desperate, but when he crosses her boundaries it is time to stand up for herself and tell him to stop. If that doesn’t work it is time for the teachers and administration to get involved and move him so that he will not pressure my daughter. It is of utmost importance that my daughter learn to do this. It is important that I do as well.
God is so merciful, wise and kind. He doesn’t waste anything in our lives and is helping me to see through my own daughter the things I myself need to learn. I pray for the grace, wisdom and understanding to apply what I’m learning. It is very hard. But I know it’s also for my good and His glory.