I’m sitting on my therapist’s couch, clenching wads of damp, mascara covered kleenax in my fist.
I’m a crier. If you get me alone and talking about anything remotely emotional, the tears just flood in. It’s uncontrollable. I don’t even mean to most of the time. I try not to. It’s something I used to feel like I had to apologize for.
My parents tell me that when I was a little kid all they had to do was give me a look or raise their voice and I would start sobbing in remorse. Apparently their mild signs of disappointment were enough of a punishment for me. And this is still a thing. A while ago someone wrote me a lengthy message all about why and how this particular thing I had done was wrong. It wasn’t even something I had done to this person, but they wanted to make their opinion known and because I felt like they were disappointed in me, it ate at me for weeks. I cried. I wrote replies and deleted them. I was praying to get a sense of whether there was something I needed to feel ashamed of. I felt self-conscious and worried until I came to a point of realizing I had absolutely nothing to apologize for. I was okay with this thing. The other person involved was okay with this thing. The person who wrote me the message was not okay with it, but did they really know everything going on? No. The point being…I tend to base how I’m doing/feeling on how other people are doing/feeling and it’s really annoying.
“So, if you weren’t being the care taker or the good girl, then who would you be?” my therapist asks me.
An impostor, but a less stressed and anxious impostor. No…I don’t know.
I get what she’s doing. She wants me to connect these roles to my own self-worth. And she’s right. Because in my mind, if I’m not sending you a random card in the mail, or bringing you soup when you’re sick, or driving you to the airport at 4:30 AM, or buying you coffee, or volunteering for your event, then you won’t have any reason to like me or desire to do the same for me. And if I’m not always encouraging, forgiving, listening, reachable, peaceful, putting the needs of others before my own, accomplishing my goals, following the rules, making sure everyone understands me and is okay with who I am, etc., then I’m not being a good girl. I feel worthless if I’m not those things. That’s been one of the hardest parts of getting divorced; not feeling “good” anymore. And it’s not like anyone is making me feel that way. I’m doing it to myself. Why? Because for me, it’s always been the wrong/bad choice and all these other choices piled up that led to the “bad” one. It’s the whole thing where the one thing you would never let happen, happens and life becomes painfully ironic. Sigh.
But I can’t just turn these instincts off. I’m probably always going to try too hard to do the right thing. I will feel insanely guilty if you’re ever unhappy with me. I’m always going to worry too much about how other people are doing. And maybe swear words will always sound contrived coming out of my mouth and I’ll never have the ability to smoke or take a shot without looking absolutely ridiculous. But hey, it’s cool guys. I have this sense of obligation to be someone no one needs to worry about, someone who doesn’t ask for much, someone who has it together, someone who is always reliable and conscientious. Someone who lives her life in the lines. Creative, colorful lines, but still organized in a particular fashion.
Maybe a sense of obligation isn’t the right phrase because I’m fairly certain it is ingrained in me. I’m okay with that. I wouldn’t want to be someone else. But I’m working on catching myself before I step too far, you know? There has to be a happy medium between, “Hey! These beautiful qualities make up the fabulous being before you” and,”You’re trying way too hard and becoming increasingly detrimental to your own mental health. Chill, lady.”
So, I’m working on not getting taken advantage of. On not feeling hurt when I give and don’t get what I’d expect in return. On not doing something because I should or shouldn’t but instead because I want or don’t want to. I’m navigating my way through the past, trying to piece together what happened that caused me to arrive at this particular place. And in doing so, I’m processing how to move forward and be more in tune with my own wants and needs. I’m trying to find my voice and not be afraid of it. I’m getting better at bracing other people’s emotions and opinions without making it all about me. Because honestly, (and this is what my therapist is so good at reminding me of) I’m not all that important. And that’s a relief.