Sometimes we set goals that are rooted in someone else’s actions, not ours. We decide that we want something. Rather than think about the actionable steps and the specific nature of the desire, we first identify a vague(ish) goal. Example: I want to be loved. I want a relationship. I don’t want to be single. We avoid, for instance, saying, ‘I want to be in a mutually fulfilling loving relationship with someone who shares [our core values]’ because that would require a very different us to say, the version of us who goes out with emotionally unavailable people. We avoid being too specific lest we expose ourselves to too much disappointment or, yes, have to follow through and take certain actions that put the power firmly in our hands.
Our solution to what we see as the problem (not having what we want yet) becomes Things That Others Must Be/Do In Order For Us To Realise Our Desires. We rely on people-pleasing to create the worthiness to trigger reciprocation or to influence them into making our desired changes.
We give away our power because the realisation of our needs and desires, as well as our sense of self-worth, rests on influencing and controlling other people’s feelings and behaviour.
So, for instance, imagine our goal is ‘I don’t want to be single’. Not only do we avoid confronting what’s behind our mindset but any person who shows a whiff of interest will immediately appear to ‘hold the power’. Messy stuff.
What do we give to attain this goal? We make sacrifices. We suppress and repress our needs, expectations, desires, feelings and opinions. Then, whether it’s directly or passive-aggressively, we remind the person in question about what we’ve done.
Of course, something feels impossible when it’s judged on our distorted perception of our limitations and also out of our hands.
We need to be what we seek. We cannot treat and regard ourselves poorly and hope to wind up in healthy relationships. It doesn’t mean that we will always be around shady folk, but it does mean that we’re likely to self-sabotage. We’ll take up residence in our uncomfortable comfort zone.
Spending our life convincing ourselves that we’re not going to have what we want is the easiest way to keep it at bay.
We work very hard at reminding ourselves that we’re ‘no good’, not ‘good enough’, ‘not worthy’. We’re not of the ‘right’ background, education, appearance, personality, race, colour, religion for our desire. As a result, we can’t ever truly be in something and giving it our best shot. A larger part of us has already accepted failure and is working behind the scenes to manage the ‘inevitable’ outcome to avoid a bigger future pain.
We go back to our ex, not because they’re right for us but because we’ve decided that we want a relationship or to avoid being single. It seems easier, safer, for us to go back. It’s like, “I’ve decided, you’re it. You’re here, some crumbs are better than no crumbs, and better the devil you know”.
Throw into the mix that we might remain in an unsatisfactory relationship (or return to it) with the view that if we please enough that we will get what we want, and you can see how we wind up feeling powerless, shortchanged, hurt and resentful.
If we’re prepared to give so much, to sacrifice, to let the unslideable slide, surely we deserve to get what we want, right? Well, yes and no. Yes, we deserve a loving relationship, but no, this person doesn’t owe us one just because we put up with a bunch of stuff due to low self-worth, fear and a hidden agenda.
Do we want a relationship with him/her or do we want to avoid:
- being alone?
- facing the baggage that’s coming up and healing it?
- making a decision about another aspect of our life?
- growing up and owning ourselves?
- rising to our potential and purpose?
- acknowledging that we have misjudged this situation?
- acknowledging that we have misjudged past situations that have informed our actions and thinking in the current situation?
- taking the next step or moving on to the next stage of our life?
In the past, rather than be myself or make the necessary changes to break out of my pattern, I chose unavailable guys. My worthiness became contingent on their validation. Once things inevitably started going awry, I expected my pleasing to count for something. OK, everything.
I didn’t acknowledge the irony of expecting someone to make a fundamental shift from who they are when you’re unprepared to do the same.
Sometimes powerless feels ‘easier’ because at least then we can blame it on something or someone else. We don’t have to be responsible for outcomes but it also validates the belief that we are not enough. It fits our narrative.
If how we feel, what we want or our life improving is contingent on what someone else does, powerless is what we will be. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t rely on others or have expectations though.
We mustn’t set ourselves up to fail.
Change is always about becoming more of who you are, not less of it.
When our version of ‘change’ and being ‘different’ relies on people-pleasing, it’s uncomfortable, painful, but also the familiar uncomfortable. Whatever we do, it’s nowhere near as much change as it would be to 1) be honest about who we are and 2) live this through our actions and choices. It’s only once we start doing the latter that we truly own ourselves and our power. We can be, do and have the things, opportunities and relationships we truly need, desire and deserve.