I know, it's hard to take in.
I've simply learned to be incredibly nice.
Any family member knows this all too well. Am I incredibly nice, or terribly fake? I'll let you be the judge.
It dawned on me, as life progressed, that no one wants to hear a strong opinion; in fact, the backlash can be downright painful. I told some young friends once that if they actually thought for the briefest of seconds they would realize Santa doesn't exist, and to give their parents some credit, for crying out loud. I may be forgetting the exact words. I was treated to (well-deserved) stony silence and hurt looks for weeks afterward. The school yard (who am I kidding, we didn't have a yard)...the school parking lot...was awkward for awhile.
One time my well-meaning grandma and step-grandpa wanted to take me to the local Santa Claus event, complete with prizes and Christmas goodies, you name it. I won a stuffed Scooby-doo! (Yayy...y..!) Everyone was so excited and thought it was so cute, and the whole time I was thinking "I hate this. Please, get me out of here before something awful happens". I was terrified and disgusted about climbing on some man-in-a-suit's knee. I hadn't the slightest idea who Scooby-doo was; I didn't know for many years actually, not having TV. The day I finally realized what that brown stuffed dog was all about was a truly enlightening day. When my kids were younger I watched all the episodes of Scooby-doo and the gang with them, marvelling that at one time, completely unknown to me, I was in possession of an icon of pop culture...
So did I express my angst and bewilderment at any point in the evening with my grandparents?? Not a bit. I oohed and aawwed at the correct times. I smiled. I smiled bigger if they kept looking expectantly at me. I said I had a fun time. I said thank-you to Santa. I was four years old, and a dyed-in-the-wool people pleaser.
Not having access to therapy at this tender age, my people-pleasing mentality grew, year by year. I just didn't want anyone mad at me. I wanted my friends, my family, random acquaintances...to feel happier because they talked to me. I became super-skilled at looking for signs of displeasure, apathy, frustration - and heading them off at the pass. It was not healthy and still isn't.
When you are a people pleaser your boundaries disappear. The best good is to keep the peace, to make others happy. If your own needs and desires get trampled or even annihilated in the process, it's a non-issue. Better yet, if you aren't aware of your own needs, you don't really notice. What needs? But sometimes you do notice. And the cumulative affect of denying your own needs can be similar to an avalanche. Layer upon layer of soft snow falls. Settles. The weight increases. Then something triggers a shift. Boom! The mountain rumbles and chaos roars down.
As you can imagine (shaking head), I'm really, really tired of pretending I don't have an opinion about things.
(At this point I listed several things I have strong opinions about, and then had to delete them because for every one I thought of a person who might be offended. It's a disease, I'm telling you.)
People are important to me. I like them a lot. I do care a great deal, but it gets confusing. Which brings me to ponder two questions.
How do I know when I've stopped caring about them, and began caring more about their feelings toward me?
How do I know when I've stopped caring about me, and began caring only what others think of me?
How does one know when the lines are crossed?
How do you know?
If I could figure this out I might actually be able to relax and enjoy life. Which would be amazingly helpful, if I may say so.