Yes, we humans are complicated. That's why creating good relationships can sometimes be tricky to achieve, or hard, or in some extreme situations, seemingly almost impossible. Yet often, techniques are available that can resolve many difficulties. Discover more.
Help! How do I stop this lifelong pattern of putting everyone’s feelings and needs before my own? It feels like it’s killing me emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Yet, I don’t know how to stop. Is it even possible? Is it just too selfish to even consider it? I’m exhausted. Depressed. Anxious. Downright disgusted. I am consistently praised by those I love and society for being so selfless and caring. Yet, I am stressed out and sometimes I feel like I’m dying inside. I feel like I’m drowning. If this sounds like you, then you may be a people pleaser.
Often there may be a distortion, be it big or small, regarding how we see ourselves, others, or our lives in general. This distortion, or as I call it, the story we tell ourselves, frequently leads to emotional pain, increased anxiety, and potentially depression. That is because feelings aren’t facts.
The phrase, feelings aren’t facts, is commonly used in 12-step programs, yet it is profoundly true for all of us. This phrase uses the term, feelings, in such a way that it is not about emotions such as sadness, grief or anger. Instead it refers to our beliefs, perceptions, interpretations and thoughts. It speaks to the ways in which we experience ourselves, or others, in a subjective way.
When I say, I love to cry, I do not mean that I love to feel sad, hurt, grief, or disappointment. What I mean is that I love that I have a vehicle (tears) to move my sadness, hurt, grief and disappointment out of my body. I am grateful that I have become comfortable enough with crying that tears just naturally come when they need to.
In a recent article, I spoke about how much I love to laugh. Here I will be talking about how much I love to cry, and how cleansing, and important, it is to do so. Tears are our bodies way of releasing sadness, emotional pain, grief, frustration, anger, and yes, joy.
Many of us trust too easily only to discover that we were betrayed. Others of us don’t trust at all. Trusting too quickly, or not trusting at all, usually says more about us than about the other person. Trust is not something that we want to automatically do when we meet someone. We also don’t want to automatically mistrust someone either. Some of us experience an involuntary response to trust, or not to trust, and neither one of these extremes serve us well.
Trust is something that takes time. It’s a process.
How often have we heard, “Just forgive her.” Like it’s just something we can do automatically, like turning on a light switch. If it were truly so easy, we would probably just do it. However, it’s not. Forgiveness is a process.
Many religions decree that it is necessary to forgive to be considered a good person. Insisting that we can reduce our anger, or resentment, by forgiving others. Some religions, and even perhaps some people we know, may use forgiveness as a weapon to guilt us into forgiveness. Maintaining that withholding forgiveness makes us a bad person, or that we might never emotionally heal. The reality is that in order to forgive we must work through our feelings first. And whether we are able to forgive or not, does not determine the kind of person we are.
Have you ever found yourself on the receiving end of someone’s tirade while sitting in your living room, the board room, or at a family gathering? Have you found yourself screaming in your mind, “stop”, yet the word is stuck in your throat and you cannot even imagine saying it out loud?
Well, guess what? This is just what I’m encouraging you to do. It really is okay, and actually emotionally healthy to say, “stop” if we are feeling that someone is speaking to us in a way that feels uncomfortable or is unacceptable.
Don’t Only Yield to The Needs of Others
As an emotionally healthy adult, it is our responsibility to teach people how we want to be treated. We cannot assume that the other person knows how we are feeling, or if something is upsetting us. In part, this means if someone says or does something that is not okay with us, then we need and deserve to say, “stop.”
Do you find that saying, “I’m sorry”, is really hard for you, even when you are sorry? Or do you find yourself saying, “I’m sorry” often, even if there isn’t anything to apologize for? Apologizing to others for something we have said, or not said, or something we perceive we have done, may significantly affect our relationships.
When Saying I’m Sorry Isn’t an Apology
How we apologize to someone is critical. If our apology comes with an explanation, or an excuse, it’s really not an apology. For example, if you phrase your apology such as, “I’m sorry that I yelled at you, but I didn’t like what you said.” This justification for your action is no apology.
So many of us have held back saying something that we think or feel for fear of the reaction by another. Whether that other is a loved one, acquaintance or stranger, more often we “stuff” our feelings and/or leave important words unsaid.
We may be afraid that the other person will be discontent, disappointed, or angry with us. Some of us may not be willing to take the perceived risk of speaking our truth, thus saying nothing and ending up angry or resentful or angry ourselves.
Do you find yourself surrounded by people who constantly complain? People who just consistently bitch and moan about almost everything? They seem to look at the cup as being half empty instead of half full. Everything seems wrong and nothing seems right. They complain about the weather, their coworkers, their partners, the government, their children, traffic, and in-laws. They constantly talk about how great life used to be and how things are so different now.
Many people, either due to smaller family sizes, extended distances, frequent moves, few friends or solitary personality types, find ourselves alone at the holidays. We may also have chosen to remain apart from family for our own emotional health. No matter the reason, the holidays can bring up intense feelings of loneliness, nostalgia, and sadness as we try to just “make it through”.