It has everything to do with me and how I am not taking care of myself, how I am asking/allowing/training others to treat me, how I am not respecting myself.
But it usually takes me a while to remember this. So, I grouse around, resentment brewing in me, being a jerk, treating others unkindly (or secretly trying not to) in my blindly self-imposed, co-dependent fog, until I remember from whom the resentment originates.
I can be a people-pleaser if I am not careful—to my own detriment. I can get myself into situations where I am going full-tilt for too long, trying too hard to please too many different people, not remembering that I’m an introvert, not mindful that my internal self-care meter is dipping dangerously low into the red, depleted, zone.
I have been so over-giving, over-caring, over-eager, over-“perfect,” (over-over-over it!) that I have made myself physically sick with exhaustion.
I find myself very logically, very (what I can justify as) practically, thinking things like,
“Sure, I can take on one more responsibility. I can do one more thing for you. I can go out one more night in a row. I can contort myself, my brain and my life to figure out how to make this work for absolutely everyone, how I can keep everyone (but me?) happy. I can stay up late again working to get another order finished (the weekend isn’t that far off; I can sleep then).
“I can put off taking care of myself one more day, one more week. If I can just make it to X, I will be able to rest then, able to slow down, able to recharge. I can make it. I’m strong. I can tough it out.”
Because I want to be nice. I don’t want to disappoint. I don’t want to let anyone down. I want to be Super Woman. I want to get everything done—leave no loose ends. I want to be that person who is nice and generous and kind and lovely and gentle and strong and capable and independent and insert more superlatives here—all the time—without fail.
And look good while I’m doing it, too, damn it!
At first, shallow, please-love-me, let-me-impress-you, look-at-my-military-corners glance, I quite self-deceptively think I am somehow helping my relationships and myself by doing this overextending thing.
Then I find myself treating them and myself unkindly, resenting them. I’m short with them, quick to anger, quick to treat them disrespectfully and dismissively—like they have somehow caused the problem and deserve to be treated thus.
I feel put upon and overwhelmed. Can’t they get their needs met elsewhere? Why are they expecting me to be everything to them? Can’t they read my mind and know that I’m tired? Why are they asking so much of me?
Because I’ve trained them to—duh.
And of course they have no idea this is happening—how would they? I’m Super Woman. Super Woman doesn’t get resentful. She doesn’t ignore her own boundaries and self-care. Super Woman has got it goin’ on—all the time. She does it all—in a single bound, no less.
My question to myself should be, though: Why am I allowing myself to do more than I am reasonably and self-respectfully able to do? Why am I allowing society, the harsh judge in my head that sounds a lot like my father, old habits, my fears of inadequacy, etc. to dictate my life and schedule to me?
Who’s really in charge here? And why am I blaming the person/situation I’m resenting, for fuck’s sake?! They aren’t expecting too much from me. They may not be expecting anything from me.
But I am.
I have somehow set myself up to be superior to, and co-dependent with, them in some way—their savior or babysitter or main source of support/entertainment/etc.
I begin thinking they have put me on a pedestal or something, so this must be their fault—when really it is me that has put me there on their behalf and in my arrogant (needy much?) imagination.
As the fog begins to clear, I realize that they have done none of this. They are just doing what I have trained them to do. They don’t necessarily know I’m suffering. Do I need to be needed so badly, then? Because it can be nothing but arrogance and/or fear, in my opinion, that gets me to that point.
It is so arrogant and disrespectful of me to assume that person can’t cope without me. It is arrogance that assumes they are depending on me too much and can’t take care of themselves. It is with arrogance that I pull away from them, assuming they will be too disappointed to bear it, and I will somehow seem like the bad guy who let them down.
They will be angry at me. They will cling to me. They will be disappointed in me. They will ask too much of me and be desperate. I will fall from my arrogant, exalted position with them.
And they will see that I am human and fallible—weak, even. When Brene Brown asked women what they feared most, women said they feared being judged as not good enough—not able to keep all the balls in the air at once.
The answer from men: To be perceived as weak or lacking in any way.
Because the only thing worse than someone getting a peek behind my wizard’s curtain and seeing that I’m not able to be everything for everyone, all the time, that I don’t always have it figured out, that I’m not always so calm and “Super?”
The only thing worse than that is them seeing, at the same time, how ashamed I am at allowing myself to be so “weak.”
If they see that, they will know I really am not Super Woman. I have flaws. They might feel sorry for me. They might assume I am inept and incapable. Those flaws could be so bad that if anyone knew about them they could never really love me. They might just decide I am too flawed to be worth their time and effort.
So when I begin treating those around me resentfully, testily and without generosity and kindness, I need to remember that I am the problem here—not them. They may not have done anything to be treated so disrespectfully. And they may—but that still doesn’t justify my bad behavior toward, or even my bad thoughts of, them.
In my case, it is a simple fix. I just have to remember to do it—even when it means telling someone no. I have to take care of myself first, or I will be unable to take care of those I love. And taking care of me usually simply looks like staying home, being alone and relaxing for a day. It’s not complicated.
I know I don’t require a week’s vacation to recharge—when I remember to recharge regularly, when I don’t allow it to get to the stage where I do require a week on the beach somewhere out-of-country.
The thing that finally bursts this bubble of fear and/or arrogance around me is when I withdraw to recharge and no one notices—or if they do, they don’t care, or they don’t mind. In other words, their “dependence” on me was just one more car on the Grace Crazy Train.
And it involves trust. I need to trust that they will understand my need to recharge. I need to trust that they will not think poorly of me if I reveal my flaws and humanness to them. Trust them not to assume I am so flawed that I can’t be trusted to know when to retreat for my own good.
But you know what? Even if they do notice, even if they are upset that I am no longer available for them in such an overextended, please-need-me-that-much, notice-how-perfect-I-am way, it never serves any healthy good for anyone involved that I would put myself and them into that dysfunctional position in the first place.
Why would I want to foster and reinforce resentment in me toward those I love simply because I can’t say no? If I truly love them (and myself), I would want to keep our relationship clean and healthy—free from my Crazy Train crap.
First published at elephant journal.
Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.