Freaked Out By “Shoulds” – A client’s letter to her mother

I realize that I was always trying to be who you wanted me to be …

This letter was written by a client as a ‘therapy’ homework assignment and I thought it was incredibly powerful. She gave me permission to reproduce it as long as I waited at least a year and omitted her name. I have done both. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen through the years that could have written the same letter addressed to either a mother or father.  Read through and see my thoughts at the end…

Dear Mama,

I’ve been asked to write a letter to you that expresses my feelings about growing up as your daughter. I’ve thought long and hard about what I want to say to you because I don’t want to hurt your feelings. In fact, I’ve always wanted to just love you. I’ve wanted you to love me and I think you did. In your own way. I have had a hard time understanding that you love me because I don’t believe that you ever accepted me. There were so. many. shoulds. I can’t get rid of them.

I know, you say that you do accept me except that you kept telling me all the things I “should” do. You told me I ‘should’ go to church, that I ‘should’ date Kevin, that I ‘should study harder, and that I ‘should’ go back to school. I tried to tell you that those things didn’t matter to me but you didn’t listen. You told me I ‘should watch what I eat” that I ‘should’ wear my hair short, and that I ‘shouldn’t’ wear short shorts. If I had done those things, I would have been a mini version of YOU – not me. Those things weren’t ‘me’. More than that, you told me I ‘should’ have kids before I got much older and when I did you went so far as to tell us how we ‘should’ parent them. Jesus mom… why ‘should’ I??

Today, I am freaked out by all the ‘shoulds’ that I’ve never achieved. I feel like a failure. I didn’t do what you thought I ‘should’ and somehow I decided that since I wasn’t doing those things that you wouldn’t (couldn’t?) love me. I am not all the things I ‘should’ be mama and I know you are disappointed. Here’s the thing I am confused about.

Why couldn’t you just love ME. The person I am. Why do I have to be like you in order to be considered good or OK? Why do I have to like what you like? Why can’t you just be OK with the person that I am? I’m not a crack addict or a mass murderer. I’m a pretty good person but I feel like it will never be ‘good enough’.

Frankly mama, I didn’t ask to be here. You did that. And because you chose to bring me into this world, I would assume that you might just be happy with who I am but that’s not what I thought for most of the time that I was growing up.

Yes, you came to my basketball games. Yes, you bought me a prom dress. Yes, you sent me to college. I probably didn’t appreciate any of those things at the time as much as I could have. However, I never felt like I could really talk to you. I was always waiting for the next criticism to come. “Don’t eat that”, “you need to lose five pounds”, “Don’t drink, or have sex, or curse”, “go to class”, “clean your car”, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I’m in therapy now mama and I am trying to discover who I am. I realize that I was always trying to be who you wanted me to be and I never figured out what felt right to me. I am almost forty and I am just now doing that. I am not blaming you per se as the therapist tells me you probably did the best you knew how to do. I hope to accept that someday.

In the meantime, I want you to know that I am throwing all those shoulds out the window and I am asking you right here, right now to ACCEPT ME AS I AM. I think that is your role as my mother. Just love me and all the things that might be different from you. We don’t have to agree, we just need to respect that we are two different people and accept those discrepancies, not judge them.

I want you in my life IF you are willing to just take me as I am. I, in turn, will take you as you are. No blame. Just compassion and acceptance. That’s it.

As children, we make the general assumption that our parents love us – or at least we have the unconscious and simply human expectation that they do/will. We tend to develop an understanding of love’s expression via the environment, television, social cues, etc… if a father beats his child stating it is ‘because’ he loves him/her – the child develops an understanding that physical abuse is a form of ‘love’ until he/she is taught otherwise.

If a parent is ‘absent’ – for whatever reason – there is generally an assumption on the child’s part that love is also absent. Children have difficulty sometimes separating ‘fact’ from ‘perception’ – actually even adults are challenged with that from time to time and yet we may expect that our children ‘know better’ (well, of course I love you).

Parents can listen more and preach less.

Parents can accept more and judge less.

Parents can teach more and dominate less.

Parents can trust more and fix less.

Parents can guide more and dictate less.

Most parents do the best they can – based on what they know – in that moment. We really can’t expect much more than that but… when we learn more we need to make it a point to do better instead of assuming that it’s too late or that we are too old to make big changes.

The mother of the client who wrote this letter eventually came to a few sessions with my client where they discussed this letter and learned to accept and honor one another’s differences. Today, the client and the mother have a loving relationship based on compassion, tolerance, and clear expectations. It is working.

Too bad it took almost 40 years.

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Damn Those Expectations

We generally expect that if we are willing to do something for someone, they would do it back.

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”
― Alexander Pope

When my birthday was approaching one year (I think it was my 33rd), my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday. My reply was “I can’t ‘think of anything”. Now, to me – this means ‘Oh I don’t know – pick out something you think I will like’ – but that’s not what I said. Because what I said and what I meant – exactly – were two different things… on the day of my birthday – there were no presents.

“I don’t have ‘anything’ to open?”, I said. “You said you didn’t want anything!”, he exclaimed. Aside from the fact that his interpretation of “I can’t think of anything” transformed into “you said you didn’t want anything” – which, is an entirely different post about communication…. In my mind – the way ‘I’ would have treated that situation… would have been to find something – even a little token gift – so that he would have something to open on his birthday. Who doesn’t like opening presents??

How many times have you found yourself thinking… ‘that’s not what I would have done?’ or ‘why did they do it that way?’ or ‘they should know me by now’.  We typically make the assumption that people who are similar to us in one way must be similar to us in most ways. The assumption is so strong in fact, that we fail to talk about very basic needs; assuming they will be met because the people who love us – “know” us. Even more frequent are the assumptions we make when we have been in a partnership for a long time… ‘after all this time, you should know.’

You remember the golden rule right? ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. And then there is the biblical reference in the New Testament, Luke 6:38 – “Give and it will be given to you.” And Confucius said “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” There are similar quotes that permeate throughout social media, posters, and books such as “treat people the way you want to be treated” and “Be a reflection of what you’d like to see in others.” And we make general assumptions along the parameters of ‘What comes around, goes around’ and ‘What you put out there, comes back’.

I believe the general premise of these ideas are helpful. I believe that they are meant to guide us and stimulate positive intent. However, I believe they also set us up with the expectation that people are paying attention to how we treat them – literally – and then we anticipate that we will be the recipients of similar treatment.

I’m not talking about the generalities such as doing nice things or speaking kindly. I find that we develop expectations of specific behaviors and I see examples of it across my life and the lives of almost every client I’ve talked to. Examples are almost boundless… (names made up)

Joyce speaks her mind and is quite opinionated. She has a strong point of view about almost everything. Bob cooked dinner for her the other night because she had to work late. Joyce was appreciative of the meal and commented that if he ever were to make it again, he should add more spices so that the flavor was more intense. Bob was insulted that Joyce would comment about the meal. His comment… “I’d never tell her how to cook, I’d just eat and enjoy.” Joyce’s thought process was very different… she would want him to tell her if something needed more flavor. She didn’t understand why his feelings were hurt.

In this example, Bob decided he was inclined never to cook again because it would open him up to what he believed to be criticism of his cooking. Since he would never think of commenting on her cooking, he was insulted that she did.

Pete and Chris had a small apartment and when Chris’s parents came to visit she thought that they would sleep in the bedroom and she and Pete would use an air mattress in the office. Her thought was that her parents should be as comfortable as possible. Pete had never given up his bed for anyone and resented that he was being asked to now. His thought was that if her parents wanted to sleep in a bed, they could get a hotel room. Chris knew her parents could afford a hotel but she wanted to spend as much time as possible with them. She would make the same concession for Chris’s parents and didn’t understand why he wasn’t willing.

That’s the crux of the issue here – ‘I would do this for you – why won’t you do it for me??’ – no matter what “it” is. We generally expect that if we are willing to do something for someone, they would do it back. We subconsciously ‘expect’ it. Sometimes, we count on it.

Lucy was home on bedrest with her third baby. It came about suddenly and she didn’t have time to plan for the downtime but wasn’t concerned because she was very active in the neighborhood and had cooked for other families often throughout the years. In fact, she was often the organizer for helping other moms when there was a need. After a week, it was apparent that no one was coordinating efforts for meals or childcare help and she felt abandoned by the people she thought were friends. She never reached out specifically with a request for help but she didn’t believe she needed to… couldn’t they ‘see’ that she needed support?

In this case, the fact that Lucy jumps up to the plate to direct and facilitate services when someone needs help dictates her expectation that the ‘like-minded’ people (other moms) from her neighborhood would surely know to reciprocate the efforts.

Kevin is the kind of guy who pays really close attention to the times when his wife says “I wish I had…” and makes a note to add that to a ‘gift list’. For birthday’s and Christmas he always gets just the right thing and she is amazed that he knows her so well. She, on the other hand typically comments that she “never knows what he wants”. Kevin feels unappreciated and unimportant to his wife. He fails to see that she fixes his favorite meal once a month and always has his favorite ice cream in the freezer – her way of saying ‘you matter’.

Some are lucky to have people in their lives that are so like-minded that there is an effortless symbiotic flow between them. My friend and her family lived with us for a month while they were house hunting – many years ago. Even though we had eight children in the house (7 of them under the age of 8) dinner and bath time were amazingly calm and harmonious because we were of the same mind… we were so precisely in tune with one another that speech was barely needed. This same person and I drove through a fast food restaurant one day, attempting to pacify the cranky toddlers in the back seat with French fries. Each of us grabbed a couple of hot fries that we intended to hand back to the kids when I noticed that we were both holding them out the window to cool off. It was a funny moment although, reading this… I guess you had to be there. In regards to those things… we thought the same way.

Of course, we don’t want a world filled with people who are exactly like us – that’s not the point here. We need to acknowledge and honor our differences. We do, however, need to become aware of how WE think… what assumptions am I making? What are my expectations? Have I communicated them in a clear and concise manner? Am I asking questions? Have I sought to define and clarify?

One thing is clear… many, many times, if there is disappointment… there is a failed expectation because we ‘assumed’ that someone would do ‘what we would have done’.

Love’s Journey

I grew to believe that they had been sent into this life for the sole purpose of generating obstacles for me on my spiritual development journey.

Continued from Decision

“Love is the beginning of the journey, its end, and the journey itself.” ~ Deepak Chopra

Not long after ‘decision day’ I was at church, me and the girls. I was hurting and looking for support. Sometimes, and many of you can attest, a church is a busy place, especially on Sunday’s. It wasn’t the time or necessarily the place for a full-on discussion about the events unfolding in my life but I wanted to at least let Pastor R know something was amiss. As we made our way through the ‘receiving line’ to share our regards, I gave him a little hug and said softly “things are bad, history is repeating itself”, believing he would understand since he was so instrumental years ago after Hubby’s first indiscretion. He smiled, nodded, and hugged me back. I went home and waited for him to call.

He didn’t call. I went to church again the next week – this time by myself because Hubby was with the girls. There is no doubt in my mind that I looked sad… most nights I cried myself to sleep in those early weeks. I waited for him to make eye contact with me so that I could telepathically share my pain with him, or at least make sure he was able to notice my demeanor. I had been a part of that church since its organizational days and knew most people there as we were still a small group. No one asked about the family. No one asked me how I was doing. I might as well have been invisible that day. I bypassed the line of people waiting to say hello or otherwise to Pastor R and headed home with deep disappointment.

I didn’t go back. I waited though, waited for R to call… waited for someone from one of the home groups or ministries to call and at the very least make sure everything was ok… nope. Didn’t happen. I know that I could have picked up the phone and called someone, I know that I could have reached out to R again, and I know that it wasn’t anyone’s direct responsibility to keep track of me but I expected it. I expected my faith community, people who had known me for seven or eight years to at least ‘notice’ that I wasn’t there week after week and to find out why.

Describing the disappointment is difficult because the rational part of me wants to take responsibility for not communicating properly about it. The emotional side of me, however, went directly to that place where abandonment resides; fortifying some internal creed that was now easily triggered. Many of the criticisms I had about organized religion were validated in this failure. The negligence that I perceived from this spiritual community was flawed by my expectations and forced me to investigate why I had developed them. In addition, it created an opportunity for me to better understand what I wanted from people who share my beliefs. The icing on the cake was when the leader of the finance ministry called to schedule our annual commitment meeting. I think I hung up on him.

I never did return to that community and no one ever asked why. I tried a few other churches in the area and I was always unsatisfied with either the contradictions, the hypocrisy of the congregants (some of whom I had known through the years, realizing that they were ‘fair weather’ church goers) or the degree of fundamentalism and rigidity. I just cannot relate to a literal translation of a Biblical text. I read the bible as a teen and took the opportunity to read it again, the New Testament mostly, during this time… I read it with a different perspective, a more open mind to language and metaphor. I thought long and hard about the idea that I was created in God’s image… what? God was a tall, heavyset, white female? Did I look like him more before or after my tenth birthday? Why is God depicted as male? Why old? Why do we think of God in human terms at all?

One of the most profound things I’ve ever heard about imagining God came from an interview of Deepak Chopra on The View – an ABC television program. They asked him “how do you envision God?” and he replied, “to visualize God is to limit God.”  Something important clicked for me in that explanation. Then, in the Brian Weiss book Messages from the Masters, he writes that a Soul Master defines Love… “Love. Everything is Love… Everything is love. With love comes understanding. With understanding comes patience. And then the time stops. Everything is now.  Love is our nature. We are Love. … Love is the ultimate healer.”

I started to assemble a collection of ideas across various world religions and there were similarities that resonated within me deeply.

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I knew I didn’t have to be a practicing Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc…, to embody these tenets. Moreover, I knew that when I focused on Love, I felt God’s presence no matter where I was. I chose to simply BE love as much as was possible and to foster and grow the spirit of love in my life whenever and however I could.

Many of us have great intentions and I am no different. I was good at loving people, paying it forward, growing my faith … until… Hubby and Abee entered the picture. It was there that all my faith was challenged and I grew to believe that they had been sent into this life for the sole purpose of generating obstacles for me on my spiritual development journey. It was working…

I found myself turning to Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. Here, I discovered more validation for my pain as well… “God intentionally allows you to go through painful experiences to equip you for ministry to others”. I, like countless others, was known to beg for a response to the question ‘why me God, why me?’ It’s incredibly difficult to accept extreme circumstances as purposeful without some paradigm of faith and so I found resolve in these words. More importantly, it was yet another source confirming the necessity of Love… offering sentiments such as “Life minus love equals zero.” And “It’s not what you do, but how much love you put into it that matters.”

I turned to Deepak Chopra to learn meditation and here is where I found profound peace. I heeded his words “In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you” and when I was angry, frustrated, scared, or unsure I sat still and followed his voice into a state of calm that offered the most incredible tranquility and comfort. In those moments, I imagined myself wrapped in a cocoon of light, in the arms of God’s love and I was safe.

Deep Disappointment = Yuck!

In my mind, that experience provided me with important information but it didn’t fit into my vision.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”  – Unknown

I wasn’t working for the first time since I was a teen. Francis had a couple of neighborhood buddies and would ‘go out to play’ with Matthew and/or Andrew almost every summer day it was an option. Hubby went to work. Usually we would have our morning together and then he would leave to see clients. He often didn’t return until late evening. My days were long and rather lonely. We were just keeping our chin up financially so there wasn’t much flexibility in the budget for exploration or home improvement although I was really good at making something from nothing and by all measures, we had a lovely home.

I was restless. There was a significant period of time where the realization that I had turned 30 and had not yet effected the world in a profound or meaningful way was depressing me.

Hubby and I were often in sync when we were dreaming about building something – the dream, the prep, and the implementation – they were the glue that spurred and motivated us to work together effectively. He moved to another company, which generated a tremendous amount of work that we agreed to do together. I maintained my licenses so I was able to contribute / help in a sizable way. I essentially became his assistant and I now had a purpose beyond being a house sitter while Francis went out to play.

Our days were fairly typical for a small family of three. We did the best we could – day by day – and settled into a fairly symbiotic routine.

Fast forward a year to the summer of 1991. We had some financial successes that year and we made the decision to take Francis to Walt Disney World for vacation. My twin (half) sisters were turning 15 that summer and we invited them to join us. I missed being physically close to my family and being a part of their day to day lives so it was great to be with them for an extended period.

I’m a spendthrift when necessary. Especially back then, I was able to stretch a dollar further than your average rubber band. We were going to camp in WDW so we had to drive – allowing for transportation of all the camping equipment. We drove to Virginia and took the Auto Train from Lorton to Sanford, FL.

I had worked on the Amtrak trains for several years while I was in California going to college and I was excited to share some of the experience with my family. When I booked our ‘coach’ tickets on an overnight train, I really hadn’t given it any thought because I knew that the seats reclined to an almost prone position. I hadn’t though, considered the impact of sleeping out-in-the-open for the rest of us. Really, those kids were able to sleep almost anywhere – it was us, as adults that had a more difficult time. I had the upper hand as I knew what to expect but Hubby wasn’t happy. He wasn’t comfortable and he didn’t really sleep. Deep breath Leslyn – you are on vacation.

After a rough evening, we at least woke to find ourselves in Florida. The beauty of the Auto Train is that upon arrival in FL, you just get in your own car and continue the trip. It was a tight squeeze for the 5 of us but we made it to the campground that I had found on our VERY new internet. It was the prudent alternative and we discovered why when we arrived to find that the only trees on the property were babies, barely 5 feet tall. For any of you who may have ever gone tent camping, you’ll realize immediately that tent’ers rely on trees to tie off their tents. To make it more insane, the tent we were using was a borrowed CANVAS army tent that slept 8 – I thought it would all be easy. Well, except that I never took the summer Floridian weather into account. Apparently, it will often rain every afternoon in the manner of gusty, fast moving thunderstorms.

The first one we experienced was the day of our arrival and it rolled in while one of the girls and I were at the grocery store. We returned to the campground to find Hubby attempting to yell directions over thunderclaps, in between lightning strikes while Francis tried to hold a tent line (he was actually flapping in the wind) and sister #2 in tears. Everything that had not been in the car (which was with us at the store) was soaking wet and the tent looked like a pool float with a broken air stem – completely deflated – flat on the ground. This vacation wasn’t starting well.

The other thing we didn’t know about Florida weather is that by 9 am it was 90 degrees outside. Our canvas tent soaked that summer sun like a dry sponge and so my grand plan to save money by eating breakfast at camp and packing lunches went right down the sewer. Within an hour after waking, we were mostly huddled in the air conditioned bathhouses, attempting to muster enough courage to spend the day waiting in line while we were either bathed in our own perspiration or completely soaked by a drenching downpour. My advice to all of you reading this… don’t go tent camping in Florida in the month of July. Ever.

The bulk of our vacation was good. The twins quarreled from time to time; Hubby’s patience was challenged a fair amount; and I played mediator a time or two. We were there for two solid weeks over the 4th of July (which, as a note – WDW offered the most amazing fireworks display I’ve ever waited 6 hours to see). It continued to be agonizingly hot. The last weekend we were there, an air conditioned cabin became available at the campground and we instantly agreed to rent it. I’m not sure I ever again slept as good as I did that first night in air conditioning after 11 days of hot tent resting.

We were exhausted when we got on that train to go home; not only from heat distress and sleep deprivation but because as most people who’ve had a WDW vacation would agree – you need a vacation from that vacation. It’s go, go, go… each day. It’s great; but it’s tiring. So, by the time evening fell and we were well on the way home, it was apparent that sleeping in the coach train seats was going to be challenging once again. Hubby, feeling frustrated and wealthy, approached the conductor to see if there were any sleeping car accommodations open. “Yes, there is one – it sleeps two” he said. “I’ll take it” says Hubby.

I turned my head, not really sure if I had heard that exchange correctly. “It only sleeps two?” I asked? “Yea, you and I can get a good night’s sleep. The kids will be fine here” replies Hubby.

Um… It took a moment for this idea to sink into my head. He was willing to let twin 15-year-old girls and a 7-year-old boy hang out alone, on a train full of strangers. Hmm. I wasn’t sure if that was just ignorance about parenting / caring for children or if it was a chilling example of a selfish disposition. In either case, it didn’t set well with my personal value structure nor did it fit inside my definition of responsible behavior. He went anyway – I slept in the coach section with the kids.

I recall feeling deeply disappointed that night. I was unable to relate with the decision he had made. I felt disconnected and distant. In my mind, that experience provided me with important information but it didn’t fit into my vision. It wasn’t in accord with what I wanted my world to look like. I filed it away – or perhaps a better description is that I stuffed it deep into the back of the filing cabinet in a folder that was labeled… ‘YUCK’.

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Sand Castles

We become slaves to positive response and most importantly, we fail to learn how to COPE with the idea that it is impossible to please all people – all the time.

In my sophomore year of high school my mom and step-dad had to relocate to the metro DC area so that mom could obtain some specialized medical care for an at-risk pregnancy. She spent three months on bed rest before my (half) twin sisters were born. In an effort not to have us change schools AGAIN – we, my brother and I (sister Allysen was living with dad in California) went to stay with our grandmother until the school year was finished. It entailed come unique transportation arrangements since she did not live in the district we attended. They made arrangements for me to be picked up at an intersection of a state highway that a teacher drove for her commute. It was rural Pennsylvania and the term intersection is loose. There were a couple of roads there actually, the state Highway, a county road leading into a town of a few hundred, and a dirt road that was predominately farm access. It was the dirt road that I travelled to meet this teacher.

Occasionally, my grandmother was unable to pick me up in the afternoons and I was relegated to walking the 3.5 miles home. No, really…. It’s true. And no….. it wasn’t uphill both ways and yes…. I had shoes. I actually loved those walks when the weather was good. I recall singing Karen Carpenter songs and making up poems. One of them won a poetry contest at school. I still remember it.

As the autumn leaves turn to red

Lay your sleepy soul upon the bed

Close your eyes and go to sleep

Listen to the Willows weep

Nestle down all snug and warm

If you chill reach out your arm

Let me hold you extra tight

Before we kiss and say goodnight.

I’ve never forgotten the words to that poem and no, I don’t recall any special significance from it. I was probably missing my mother. I’ve had people say that it reminds them of death….. In future years if ever an English professor somewhere decides that there is some amazing underpinning of sorrow here and decides what it must mean, please know it is beyond my conscious understanding.

The other memory that stands out from one of those long walks is the profound understanding that I was “too young to feel this old”. I was fifteen and had assumed primary responsibility for my 6 year old brother. In all of the moves, the one consistent element is that he and I were together. Our sister often chose to live with the opposite parent and it was only a year or two out of our entire childhood that we all shared the same home. Along the way people would say “take care of your brother” or “you are such a big girl” and “it’s nice to count on you”. I became that girl – the one whom everyone depended upon. The idea that I may fail or let someone down became unacceptable to me. I began to thrive on people’s reliance on me. I became Miss Responsible while I lost my childhood.  That day I realized I was “too young” I didn’t know why or how it had happened exactly that I “felt too old” – I just knew I did and I didn’t believe that my thoughts about it would be taken seriously or accepted. I knew I needed to be dependable.

Perhaps on some crazy deep plane I was somehow in touch with the idea that my youth was escaping, my innocence waning, my adolescence disappearing and that is the source of the poem. Perhaps there was some subliminal pain that was unable to rise to the surface except metaphorically in that collection of rhyming words. Is that where art comes from? Should I have paid closer attention? Should someone have noticed? Nope, adults in my life were on auto pilot, coping with their own stuff – looking across the valley and choosing not to see the garbage there.

By the age of 15 I had learned and deeply engrained into my psyche the need to please – to be dependable and responsible – to take care of others. I had demonstrated so greatly that I could meet the needs of other people that *I think* people assumed I knew how to meet my own. I’m not sure I was aware that I had personal needs. How does a young person become aware of their needs if someone isn’t guiding them and teaching them about emotional and physical needs and about healthy methods of self care?

Some might argue (in fact, I often have a mental debate/war ensuing in my own mind) that learning dependability and responsibility are admirable attributes and actually, they are. However, there are UNHEALTHY behaviors that arise when we forget to set limits, to listen to our own needs, and fail to use our voice in fear that someone will feel disappointment. We learn to keep secrets where truth would meet displeasure. We develop perfectionist personas and fears of failure. We become slaves to positive response and most importantly, we fail to learn how to COPE with the idea that it is impossible to please all people – all the time.

That was me by the age of 18. I had become a complete and total people pleaser without skills to manage negative responses in a healthy manner and so it began, like a drippy sand castle…. one situation after another, the fears of disappointment and the inability to handle failure. Mental messages that slowly accumulated into a distorted perception of self.  There was my ‘inside’ self and the identity that I portrayed to the world. I had allowed a constant state of disconnect to exist in my mind between the person I felt like on the inside and the person I allowed the world to see. When people looked at me, they saw a confident, strong, smart, motivated, determined, and fearless young woman.  That was my outside – the part that people were proud of; teachers, parents, friends, siblings, employers, neighbors. I was a ‘good girl’. And, while those qualities are definitely there, the 12 year old girl who missed her mom and wanted to ride bikes and play hide and seek ‘til dark also existed and she was at war with me. She wanted to come out and be taken care of. She needed love and compassion. She wanted to cry in the lap of someone who didn’t judge. She needed to learn how to disappoint without risking total approval.

Merging my inside and my outside happened, but not until a storm blew in and washed wave after wave over the well fortified castle.