Saying No and Saving People

I’m not one of those people who likes to say, “no.” When I was younger, it was especially hard. I guess I was a people pleaser my whole life. I think it all goes back to my severe anxiety (that nobody believes I have). If I never made anybody upset, I would save myself a lot of anxiety.

People usually think I’m lying when I say that I had grey hairs when I was a toddler and that I used to be in a permanent state of stressed out. Not for any good reason. I had a great mom. Maybe she was in a permanent state of stressed out taking care of four kids and it just carried over into my everyday life. I don’t remember enough about my childhood to speculate. All I know is that I never wanted to make anyone upset with me. Getting yelled at or reprimanded would make me physically ill. I would gag like I was going to throw up, but I never did. My siblings still make fun of me about it to this day.

The older I got, the more I wanted to please people. It didn’t matter if it hindered me in some way. And then I eventually stopped saying yes, and started saying, “I can’t” or “I’m not able to” or “I’m not willing to.” It just depended on the situation. It’s still really hard for me to do and I still feel guilty when I can’t help someone or when I choose not to, but self-preservation has to come first sometimes.

After I mostly outgrew that, I grew into another bad habit. I wanted to save everyone. I wanted to help them by teaching them how to grow and how to learn to do new things and how to communicate. It would have been all well and good if they had wanted my help or asked for it. But they never did. I just picked broken people. Specifically men. Men who had a sordid past. Men with criminal records. Men from broken homes. Men who didn’t know how to treat women. Men who were sociopaths. I’d love to say that I quickly learned you can’t turn a sociopath into a sane, reasonable or decent human being. But I learned that lesson the hard way and it left bruises for weeks.

I dealt with messed up people over and over again. Sometimes I would joke that I date men long enough to make them better for their next girlfriend. There is some truth in that joke. The new girlfriends never thank me. They probably don’t even know the work I put in and it’s OK. I don’t want recognition for their success any more than I want the blame for their failures.

I recognized this pattern. I recognized that I went from being a people pleaser to being a people saver. Two things that I never planned on doing. Nor did I enjoy it. I think if I could focus so much of my time and energy on fixing what was wrong with everyone else, I didn’t have to focus on what was wrong with me.

Not that I have a whole list of things outwardly wrong with me, but we all have inward issues that could be dealt with. I know that I don’t give myself enough credit for being awesome. I know that I doubt my writing skills on a regular basis. I know that I’ve written three books, one children’s book, and dozens, maybe hundreds, of poems. I write them. I put them away. I get them back out later. I read them. I usually think they are really good. And then I start to doubt myself and I hate them all over again. And put them away again. Only to joke that I’ll probably be famous when I’m dead. It’s my process. My self-loathing, self-doubting process. And then I complain that I’m not rich or more specifically that I’m broke. Deep down, I know I have a gift. I get messages from you guys regularly thanking me for sharing some random idea or experience or thought. I have people tell me they love my writing. But then I look in the mirror and the side of me that doubts that I can even string together a logical sentence rears her ugly head and I let it stay there while I bury my literary head in the sand and wait for my next big idea.

Another issue I have is self-esteem. And I know that it is fucking ridiculous. I do own a mirror. And some days, I know that I’m not ugly. But most days, if I’m being honest, I look in the mirror for the amount of time it takes to pull my hair back in a ponytail or to put on mascara. And then I don’t see myself again for the rest of the day because for some reason, I make me sick. Sometimes I think it’s because I hate myself. Sometimes I think it’s because I’m just utterly disappointed in myself. And sometimes I have no reasoning behind it at all.

I don’t feel like that all the time. There are days when I love me. There are days when I can look in the mirror. I don’t keep track of which days outnumber which and every day I work on the positive a little more.

My point is, when I’m expending all my energy fixing others, I don’t have to even think about the things about me that may need to be fixed. I got so used to that, it became my crutch in a sense. I don’t sit around and dwell on the fact that I feel that way sometimes. I don’t even go around sharing this information with very many people if any. So what better way to air my dirty laundry than on social media where hundreds of people can take a gander at my insecurities? But admitting you have a problem is the key to fixing it or so I hear.

I’m committed to working out these kinks. I’m committed to not fixing anybody else. Not to bring Flea Market Guy into this again, but for some reason, he’s a permanent fixture in my brain right now. I think I was so enamored with him because he seemingly had his life together and I didn’t have to fix him. And when it turned out it was all an act, I had to talk myself out of trying to fix him. I will admit I tried a few times to help. I showed up when I wasn’t invited. I thought I was doing something good. But I’m well aware that you can’t help people if they don’t want to help themselves. And you can’t help people when they don’t want your help. So I did eventually give up and walk away. Not that I don’t hope he calls every day. Not that I don’t want to call him. Not that I don’t miss talking nonsense with him. I just know that I will get my feelings hurt and if he wants to make a change, he has to be the one to do. Just like every single one of us.

So I’m done fixing people. I have run out of glue for the broken. I don’t even know if I have enough left for myself, but I’m going to either make it stretch or find a new recipe.

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