“The way you treat yourself is…”

by Annie Kaszina on July 17, 2012

I hadn’t intended to write more about “doing nice” again this week.  I was going to talk about Mr Nasty.  But then I had a light bulb moment I really want to share with you. 

I had an appointment to speak with a woman who said she was a People-pleaser Extraordinaire.   Boy, was she right about that. (People-pleasing, by the way is really just another way of saying “I have to be compulsively Nice – or else I might explode, or worse!!”)     As a world class People-pleaser, Mary had a LOT she was bursting to share.  

But “stuff” got in the way: like her 2 year old’s needs, and her 4 year old’s needs, and one thing and another.  A few interruptions in, she asked me if she could call me back at another time.  

“No” is what I said, in a friendly way.  You see, I’d already gifted her some of my time, and she’d wasted it – together with her own.  

That was her choice, and I wasn’t prepared to collude with her.  I refused to be part of her problem.  

The interesting thing is that Mary is terrified of people not liking her.  She’ll do pretty well anything to have people like her.  But it doesn’t work that well.  After that abortive call with her, I know exactly why it doesn’t work.  

Someone once said to me:

“The way you treat yourself, is the way you treat the world.” 

Now, I did not want to hear that, at all.  I was the victim of an abusive husband, wasn’t I?  From the time I woke up in the morning to the time I went to bed, I people-pleased furiously to make Everyone happy.  What was the problem?  If I was struggling and doing my best to please Everyone, surely that was good enough? 

I knew I didn’t treat myself too well, but I reckoned I treated other people superbly.  I put them on a pedestal, didn’t I, and treated them like beings from a Higher Planet.  Were Other People never satisfied?  What could they possibly have to complain about? 

That call with Mary finally showed me the answer.  Mary treated me no worse than she treated herself.  Consciously, she deferred to me, and looked up to me.  Unconsciously, Mary was visiting her own inner chaos on me.  It felt foul. 

There’s an important distinction here: telling me about her inner chaos is one thing, visiting it on me is quite another.  Why I should have to experience, first hand, the unbounded chaos of her emotional world?  

Now, I’m not sharing this with you to complain – actually, I’m really grateful to her for the learning.  I’m sharing this with you because it is a powerful insight into the way too many of us behave (including me at an earlier time in my life). 

When you don’t think you have any options, you just muddle on through; and you hope if you add trying to please another person to the chaotic, infinite list of things you try to juggle in a day, that other person will ‘understand’ and appreciate your effort.  

Because you’re juggling a million and one impossible, incompatible demands, you lose sight of what a rather forthright friend of mine calls the BO (Bleeding Obvious).  Ultimately, everyone – including you – is tuned to Radio WIIFM (that’s Radio What’s In It For Me).  It’s our all time favourite station.  Which means, it doesn’t matter how much you try to second-guess everything someone else may want from you. If you make them feel uncomfortable by introducing them into your emotional chaos, they won’t thank you for it, at all.

You interpret their negative response as the message you most fear: they must dislike you, mustn’t they, or else they wouldn’t end up either pulling away from you, or visiting their displeasure on you. 

There’s something better than trying to do EVERYTHING for every last person who comes into your orbit:  

Being realistic.  Being brave enough to admit to yourself, and other people, that some things aren’t possible, right now

“Doing nice” really isn’t nice to you, and it’s not nice to other people, either.  

Think about it.  When you stop trying to be all things – except who you truly are – to all people, do you think you might have more energy to invest productively in your own life? 

 

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