Not too long ago, someone threw an insult at me for no reason. It wasn’t the worst thing someone has said to me, but it was certainly unwarranted and childish. I tell you this because for the first time in my life, my immediate thought after the insult was, “what’s wrong with them?” and not, “what’s wrong with me?”
This insult itself isn’t worth too much dissection: upon reflection, I suspect this person was having a bad day and needed an easy target on which to pin some pent-up frustration (and that’s their problem, not mine). The part of this that does need dissection is why I was that pin. I seem to find myself as someone else’s pin often.
Why am I always the pin?
I’ve written many times in my blog and on my social platforms that I have always been a people-pleaser. I come from a long line of people-pleasers. I suspect it’s how a lot of women have been raised: that it’s our responsibility to make everyone else happy. To not be too much of a burden. To absorb as much pain from others as we can because in that, I think we receive validation. “If I can make so-and-so happy, then I am valuable.”
I don’t think that most people who are on the receiving end of the people-pleaser’s pleasingness ever have any intention of hurting anyone. Chances are, they don’t even realize that you are placing your entire self-worth in the ability to gain their approval/make them happy/please them, etc. I think that if anything, people pleasers are primarily seen as nice, helpful people, because in all sincerity, we are. We are helpers. We genuinely want to lift burdens, ease pain, and be supportive, but the problem is, it leaves a giant vacuum in our ability to create boundaries for ourselves and fully understand our own worth as a person.
So I’m an easy pin. I don’t fight back. I don’t say, “hey, back off,” or, “that was uncalled-for.” Instead, historically, I’ve absorbed it like a car’s suspension, apologized for their trouble, and replayed that moment over and over in my head for days, losing sleep and feeling sick over it. It would trigger a host of anxiety responses and any other interaction I might have with that person in the future, I’d go out of my way (and sometimes over the top) to make them happy. Their validation then became the only thing determining my self-worth.
(If any of what I’m saying here sounds familiar to you, reader, or is something you’ve experienced / know someone who is like this, I’d love to hear from you)
Being a people-pleaser to this degree becomes especially dangerous when a narcissist or an abuser (or someone in that arena) realizes this about you. You’re no longer a pin, but a pawn: a pawn that they move and shift in their game for their win. I can’t possibly get into all of this now, but if any of this weird-ass blog is resonating with you, just put the narcissist nugget in your back pocket to think on.
“What’s wrong with them?” vs “ What’s wrong with me?” — how did I get here?
I realized a few years ago that I was this thing: a people-pleaser. I realized that I was placing my self-worth and value in the hands of others and no matter how good or bad the intentions of other people may have been, I’d never be good enough; you know why? Because if you can’t fully value yourself for who you are, then how on Earth can you expect others to fully value you?
So this became my pseudo-mantra: “I need to value myself, I need to value myself.” Then it morphed into, “I am valuable, I am valuable.”
And that’s where I still am. I suppose I’m a “recovering people-pleaser.” See because I don’t think I’m at the point where I can say to someone, “hey, stop doing that to me,” or “you know, I didn’t deserve that.” But I have changed my thought patterns, enough to think “what’s wrong with them?” and not “what’s wrong with me?” and that’s huge.
Nothing about donkeys. Not a scene, or anything poetic. But this blog is more a bat-signal for any of y’all who might have dealt with / are dealing with feelings like this. They’re complex. They’re hard to recognize. They’re awkward to talk about. But they’re there. And so here’s a post about it.
I leave you with this: you are valuable. If you don’t believe that yet, it’s okay, but at least try and tell yourself that. See how it feels. And then do it again. And again. And again. Because you are valuable, I promise.