The signs started small.
Around June I literally stopped being able to decide what I wanted for dinner.
At the time I was responsible for so many decisions related to the wedding G and I were planning, my job, and how our household operated (down to when the dogs would eat or where the sunscreen would be stored), that the most mundane decisions seemed impossible. I was attempting to keep all of these balls in the air while also trying to be the social coordinator for our friends, manage a fitness challenge on the side, hit up enough meetings, and still talk to each and everyone of my friends and family as much as I thought they expected me to, somewhere amongst all of the things I felt like I “had to do”, I lost my way.
It got to the point that when Garrett would ask me where I wanted to go for dinner, or which HelloFresh meal I wanted that evening, the panic would set in.
I literally didn’t feel like I had the capacity to make my brain focus in on something that should have been the easiest answer of my day. I LITERALLY could not find words to answer simple questions.
I started responding with things such as “I don’t care.” or “You choose” or “Seriously, anything”.
These types of answers began to snowball and they entered into every facet of my life. I started to be unsure of the direction that I was providing to my clients, when design is the one thing that I know in my soul I am actually good at. I started using terms like “whatever you think” or “we can do whatever you want” when these people were literally PAYING me to help them make their decisions.
Training the new puppy started to seem impossible and I started to doubt if I was capable, even though I knew I trained his older rescue brother, with no problem and with no help.
By August, the signs were loud and clear, I just chose to ignore them.
I will never forget the first time I couldn’t get out of bed.
I woke up one morning in August in what I now realize was a state of panic.
It felt like someone had stuffed cotton balls in my ears, that my room had decreased in size by about 75% and that every single person I had ever known hated me. I managed to roll over, deactivate my Facebook, put my phone on silent, stuff it in a drawer, and began to cry. I couldn’t slow my breathing and I honestly felt like I was going to die.
After a few vain attempts to “focus on my breathing” to no avail, I closed my eyes and just waited for my real-life nightmare to pass.
After the clouds cleared enough for me to open my eyes and get out of bed, I got dressed and pretended like nothing had happened. I was so ashamed of my own anxiety, that I chose to not acknowledge it.
When people asked me why they could no longer find me on Facebook I would simply reply “I am taking a break from social media because of an article I read”, too ashamed to tell them that the mere thought of opening up the highlight reel of other people’s lives would immediately send me spinning.
The crazy part of the whole thing is that I knew intellectually if any one else EVER came to me and told me they were having the same issues, I would respond softly and with love.
For some reason, I was holding myself to an unrealistic standard, and could not give myself that same grace. This, I think, is the true crux of a chronic people pleaser.
For years I have had an insatiable need to be everything to everyone. I have been somewhere at the bottom of my own priority list, somewhere below my dogs and vacuuming the floor (because if I don’t, who else will?), for as long as I can remember.
(EX: Last year I purchased myself a massage membership at a local store at the advice of a trusted friend to TRY to set an hour aside each MONTH for some “Me Time”. I have racked up 13 unused credits because something always has seemed more important than taking an hour for myself each month. I would literally schedule an appointment and cancel it last minute because someone somewhere seemed to need me just a little bit more than I needed me.)
This year during this wedding planning process, my people pleasing tendencies were highlighted in a way that I could not ignore.
Anyone who has planned a wedding will tell you that there is no possible way that you will make everyone happy, but I was damn set on proving those people wrong.
In my attempts to make everyone around me comfortable, I seemingly did the opposite and frustrated everyone. I was taking so many “suggestions” from so many people that I couldn’t see the forest through the trees. People around me began to argue amongst each other because I wasn’t setting firm boundaries about what I actually wanted. They thought they knew better, and I wasn’t setting the record straight for fear of making the situation worse.
I started to resent the process and long for the day that I was just a wife and not a fiancé in the midst of planning a wedding. I started fantasizing about eloping and leaving the entire event that I had worked so hard to plan in the dust. I wanted so desperately to enjoy this time, but the chaos that surrounded the whole event was deafening.
TIP: If you are a bride in the process of planning a wedding, PLEASE do not fall into this trap. Do what you want, how you want, in the way you want. (Actually, if you are a person planning ANYTHING: Do what you want, how you want, in the way that you want.)
Nineteen days before my wedding with a simple text message on a Monday morning, the woman that I had asked to be my Maid of Honor informed me with no explanation, that she thought it best “to not be a part of this wedding”. I have been married for a week now and I still have not been given a reason that explains why she made this choice.
However, the blessing of that difficult situation was that the moment I read that text message was the moment I decided that I was going to stop giving a shit about what other people thought or wanted. I decided that I was going to enjoy the rest of my time as a fiancé and everyone else would get in line to support us, or they wouldn’t. Either way, I was going to be fine. I was JUST FINE on my insanely beautiful wedding day, and today, I still am. Just fine.
I firmly believe that sometimes God has to shake us to our core to make us pay attention. It was in that moment that I realized I had been catering to EVERYONE else besides myself and it was affecting my health. I was done.
Now, I will be the first to tell you that I have not made life-altering strides in only a month. I haven’t. I still have anxiety, and I still struggle with thinking I am not doing enough in the midst of over extending myself. I am trying, but I still have a long way to go.
The difference? Today I am aware of my issue and I truly believe that I am in the beginning stages of changing who I have been for so long.
Here are five important things that I have learned over the last year:
You can not and WILL NOT ever please everyone.
There is nothing like a wedding to bring out the “you should’s” and “you have to’s” from your friends and family members. While I truly believe that most people are well-intentioned, if you allow people to give their two-cents every time they see fit, you will not be able to hear your own thoughts because you will be succumbed by too much noise. G and I listened to a lot of those external voices over the last year, and on our wedding day, our OWN instincts were proven correct. We are gifted our intuition for a reason. Use it, and never feel like you have to apologize for it.
No matter how you try, people are still going to get pissed. SO: If people are going to get pissed anyways, you may as well do what you want.
Self-care is not only important, it is necessary.
Take it from me, USE the massage membership. Go to the gym. Eat the salad. Say no to the favor. Read the book. Don’t answer the phone. Take the nap.
This isn’t only important, it will save your life.
When I truly and honestly reflected as to why my anxiety had gotten so bad, I realized it was because I was doing NOTHING to combat it. You know that saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup”? EXHIBIT A.
You are not responsible for other peoples bullshit.
The minute I decided that people could fend for themselves, was the minute I began to enjoy being a fiancé.
WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR OTHER PEOPLE’S ACTIONS.
I REPEAT: WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR OTHER PEOPLE’S ACTIONS.
We do not have to fix things that do not concern us. We don’t.
We also do not have to accept unacceptable behavior. We don’t.
I have learned that letting people do the shitty things they do is one of the most liberating feelings in the world.
No is a complete sentence.
This one is hard for me. EXTREMELY HARD.
It is hard because I genuinely WANT to do things, and be things, that sometimes I don’t have to capacity or time to do or be.
No is a boundary, and if you are anything like me, you’re not well-versed in the “No” arena.
The word “No” is just as important as the word “Yes”.
In my experience, my inability to say no manifested itself into emotional fatigue resulting from my desperate need to manage the needs, wants, and expectations of others.
Constantly saying “yes” for fear of saying “no” is like throwing gasoline on an anxiety fire.
Anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of.
If you feel like there is something wrong with you, or that you are alone in your feelings of anxiety, you are not paying close enough attention.
Type in “anxiety” into Google and just scroll through the THOUSANDS of articles discussing the issue. You are not alone. This is something affecting millions of people and something that we must acknowledge to begin to heal as a whole. Is NOT something to be ashamed of.
You are not broken. You are human, and being human is the hardest job in the world.
We must stop apologizing for our human-ness.
Are you a recovering people pleaser like me? I would love to hear how you combat those feelings of “not-enoughness”.