I retweeted this tweet the other day because I thought This is me! How funny! and it is me and it is funny but it has also sent me into quite an existential crisis:
caught somewhere between wanting desperately to make everyone proud and wanting to feel like i don't need validation about me from anyone but me
— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) February 7, 2018
(If you can’t see the embed it says: “caught somewhere between wanting desperately to make everyone proud and wanting to feel like i don’t need validation about me from anyone but me”)
In the times where I can’t distract my brain from the storm within, I come back to this tweet often. I had never simplified some of my social and relationship woes in this way, but now that I see it reduced into this silly statement, I can’t stop thinking about how true this is.
I think there are two parts to the struggle on this pendulum for me:
- These two things don’t have to me mutually exclusive. You don’t EITHER want to make everyone proud OR only need validation from yourself. As humans evolved, being liked in the group meant survival. If your tribe did not like you, you might not get your share of the food. Wanting to be liked is an evolutionary skill that allowed us to survived to procreated. You can not just shut that off. And so it’s okay to want people to approve or be proud of you but to also, at the end of the day, let your own approval be what pushes you forward.
- Disappointing someone you care about is a powerful and lingering type of pain. At least for me. It’s impossible for me to lessen the amount I care about approval from others because the second I’ve disappointed someone, it’s like I’m feeling my heart be ripped from my chest and I can not breathe. This extreme response may be unique to me, and may be part of why I struggle on this pendulum, but I fear that pain of disappointing someone SO STRONGLY that do everything in my power to avoid it, even if it disappoints myself in the process. Because the pain of disappointing myself is not that strong, probably because I don’t have a lot of faith in myself to begin with. Disappointing others is something I more desperately want/need to avoid.
I can accept the first one, I never want to be someone who “doesn’t care what anyone thinks about them” because the tribe of people who care about me (like you) have saved me time and time again. I do care because I need that love to help when I don’t love myself enough. I just wish I could work on the second one. I wish I could either lessen the pain I feel when I’ve disappointed someone, or learn to have more faith in my friends and family and that disappointment does not erase love.
The other day I nagged Nikki about something mundane like leaving her wet towels on the floor. And then I snipped at her for giving me attitude. Both of these are just normal steps in the life of a tween Mom, but she got so upset that she had disappointed me and I tried to talk to her about the fact that these little things that frustrate me do not dampen my love for her in any way. And yet…YET…I go through this fall into a pit of despair in disappointing people and I think there is a part of me that assumes with that disappointment comes a loss of love, and maybe that is why it hurts so much and why I so desperately want to avoid it.
Here’s a good example from my own childhood. I just completely avoided letting my Dad find out when I lost things. I lost shit ALL THE TIME and it drove him CRAZY and so I would just pretend the stuff was “in my locker” or something and then I carried the stress of the impending disappointment for MONTHS instead of just telling him on the first day: I lost it. I would always hope to find it before he found out so I that I could avoid disappointing him. So I would drag it out and go to extreme lengths to keep him blind to it, instead of just facing the disappointment on the first day and moving past it.
And here’s the other thing I have learned: It’s impossible to make everyone happy and in trying to do that, you ALWAYS DISAPPOINT SOMEONE. A simple example is when my kid is scared and needs someone to go to sleep with them. I either disappoint my kid by not honoring the request or I disappoint my husband for giving in. So disappointing people is just part of the game when you try to be loved by everyone. So if you try to keep everyone happy because you had disappointing them, then you are DEFINITELY GOING TO DISAPPOINT SOMEONE.
You all should see me apologize to the cashier when I can’t bag my own groceries fast enough at Target. I don’t even HAVE to do that but since I bring my own bags and I don’t want to slow down the process I always offer to bag to “help” and when they scan faster than I bag I will apologize at least 42 times for being too slow.
Where do you fall on that pendulum? If you disappoint someone, does the pain destroy you like it does me? I’ve been faced recently with several moments of disappointing people who I didn’t want to disappoint and I find the pain to be devastating. Is that just me? Where did I develop that response? How do I make it so that is not so earth-shattering so maybe I can not do stupid stuff to try to avoid it?
(And are these questions I should be taking to my therapist instead of to my blog?)