One of the biggest barriers to making the decision to break up, staying broken up, or breaking up with your self-esteem in tow, is people pleasing in an attempt to influence and control the other person’s feelings and behaviour.
In this situation, you think that you’re being ‘nice’, ‘loving’ etc., but when you examine what’s behind the thoughts, feelings and actions that encompass your patterns and habits in this area, what becomes apparent is that trying to be The Good Girl/Guy, is a means of avoiding and running from other feelings that you’re afraid to confront.
Here’s why: People pleasing is about doing what are often theoretically good things, but for the wrong reasons. Until the hidden agenda is revealed, it keeps you stuck in a painful loop where you’re trying to get it met while also blaming that person directly or indirectly for why you’re still there and suffering.
Now, that’s not to say that this person isn’t potentially saying or doing things that play into your propensity to be liked at all costs, but it is this lack of awareness about what’s behind your behaviour that drives you to keep engaging or certainly delaying on doing the right thing. Basically, it’s not that this person is The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread.
Are you being ‘nice’, ‘loving’ etc., because it’s a healthy connection, or are your pleasing activities motivated by the fear of confronting certain feelings/responsibilities and taking the next step and moving forward?
Here’s how you find out: What do you consistently feel about or around this person? Anxious, resentful, guilty, angry, vengeful, blame, shame, sad, victimised, powerless, helpless, owed, obliged, rage, or even depressed? If you’re experiencing reoccurring visits from any of these emotions, these are notifications that you are doing you a disservice and that the boundaries are very blurred or absent between you and this person.
You cannot make loving, caring, respectful, trusting decisions for you, never mind another person, if the boundaries are absent or blurred, because it makes you unable to distinguish your feelings, actions, personality and character from theirs.
Healing and moving forward with love is only going to happen when you are honest about the baggage behind these feelings.
When I struggled to break up and in some instances, do No Contact, it’s because I experienced feelings associated with abandonment, which I then fed with various thoughts and action habits that exacerbated those feelings further. It’s no wonder I struggled to have endings when I was responding as if I were running the risk of alienating a parent and experiencing a devastating wound.
Breaking up and letting go isn’t supposed to be easy but they’re a necessary part of life. Without loss, we don’t grieve and make space for something else that we didn’t anticipate. We don’t heal pain, fear and guilt and we’re often unaware of the impact that this emotional baggage has had. If we’re always clinging even when we know that a person and the relationship we have with them makes us less of who we are not more, we are settling for less.
Ask yourself: Who would I be without the drama of this relationship or my habits?
Life comes with some uncomfortable choices as part of the package. At some point you become aware of the importance of being loved, cared for, trusted and respected, not just by others but by you at the same time.
If you keep trying to be liked at all costs, when you are faced with uncomfortable but necessary decisions around boundaries, you will be stuck between a rock and a hard place. You will become so obsessed with the other person’s opinion of you and how you think they might feel, which incidentally, has very little to do with the truth and is more about your projections, that you will deeply compromise you. In trying to take care of their feelings and behaviour, you will neglect your own, ending up out of like and love with you. This becomes even more painful when it becomes apparent that the object of your angst is not going to lose themselves over you in the way that you’re prepared to over them. It’s a duff deal.
With all the best will in the world, you could lay yourself out on a sacrificial alter for this person, and they’re still going to think what they’re going to think, feel what they’re going to feel, and do what they’re going to do.
A breakup has to hurt before it doesn’t.
There may come a time when you can both be genuine friends or stay in touch periodically, but that time, along with your healing, will never come, if you keep screwing you over and expecting them to act or feel differently to make you feel better about it.
It’s all very well trying to be nice, loving, patient, understanding, empathetic etc., but it’s too much for someone who does not conduct themselves in that way towards you, to keep expecting you to continue as if they do. Giving these things to someone else though, must not come at the cost of giving them to you.
You can be nice, loving etc., without people pleasing and that’s by, wait for it– accepting that person for they are instead of trying to make them into who you’d prefer them to be. When you accept them, wholly and fully, you can see why you loved and liked them but you can acknowledge the factors that communicate that the relationship isn’t going to work.
Work on it
- What’s the baggage behind it? Locate the experience(s) of abandonment, rejection, disappointment or anger that’s blinding you in this situation. Acknowledge the impact that these experiences are having on your present-day thinking, feeling and behaviour.
- What are you trying to avoid? Identify the feelings, perceptions, responsibilities etc., that you’re running from. For example: you might be running from feelings of being ‘not good enough’, or avoiding committing to what you really need and want. What are you trying to be in control of? e.g. Uncertainty, them spontaneously combusting into someone else.
- How is this avoidance manifesting itself? List the specific things that you’re being and doing as part of this habit so that you’re aware, not just of the cost, but also the habit itself. This is your disappointment cycle. Now, when you’re, for instance, about to pretend to be friends even though this inevitably results in you feeling ashamed and berating you, you can say, ‘That would be me trying to avoid those feelings of being disliked by my peers at school’, and you can pull yourself into the present and have some compassion for your current and younger self.
- What can you do for you? I learned to talk me off the proverbial ledge of my freakouts. I stopped chasing fear noise and I reminding myself that my ex wasn’t my daddy or mommy. I stopped tricking myself, acknowledging where I was trying to be in control of him because I was afraid of taking command of me and saying no to my tantrums. By saying no to destructive stuff, I also learned that having boundaries is how we show love for ourselves and others. I also discovered that worrying made no difference because contrary to my ego’s opinion, he and I were not hooked up to each other’s minds and emotions. I’d worry about him not liking me or hurting him, he’d be letting me know that he’d happily get into my pants or doing something that reminding me that he was all about himself. What was there to fear? Doing things designed to avoid/control is different to what you do to take care of you and spark loving feelings.
- Commit to healing the baggage behind the habits in this breakup. Let the fallout from trying to be ‘nice’ and ‘pleasing’ be the wake-up call that it is to address the root cause of your people pleasing habits. Whether it’s through self-exploration and other support and resources you might draw on, or with the help of a professional, make this commitment a higher priority than being liked by ‘everyone’ or by this particular person. Think about how you want to feel, not just right this minute or in a few days or hours, but how you want to feel in future. You can only see a little bit of the road in front of you but there’s a great deal beyond what you see. Don’t sacrifice a loving future or present, to keep catering to the past.
Some Baggage Reclaim resources and books you might find useful: My Feelings Diary and Unsent Letter guides, both available for free from my downloads section. My latest book Love, Care, Trust & Respect, for guidance on loving relationships and how to get there, plus The No Contact Rule.