People Pleaser Prison
As I became more aware of myself and who I am, I realized I have been a people pleaser much of my life. During childhood, my dad controlled everything my mother and I did with his silence. If he didn’t approve he would not speak for days.
I got married the first time just months before my 19th birthday. A week after getting married I experienced the first instance of
physical abuse. I wanted out, but I also didn’t want to suffer my dad’s wrath, either. I had learned how to avoid it by doing what he said – being a people pleaser.
As the years progressed so did the physical abuse. I rationalized it by saying it didn’t happen daily, weekly, or even monthly. Abuse usually goes in cycles and my ex’s cycle was about five years. In between the events I’d tell myself that maybe it wouldn’t happen again or I caused it, it’s my fault, if I do something different it’ll go away.
I had one boss take me aside and ask if I wanted help because of the bruises that were visible. Of course, I played it off as a fall. Way too many of us do that.
Breaking out of Prison
Finally, I realized nothing had changed and I began making plans to escape only to be told by my dad that a divorce was not an option. At 30 years of age, I allowed my dad to still control me. Why? Habit, maybe. I had settled into the role of a people pleaser at that point. It was just easier.
Going against my dad, as well as my ex-husband, I eventually got a divorce. My first step toward escaping people-pleasing prison was defying my dad, the hardest.
When I struck out on my own, I found more happiness than I thought possible, living my own life, nobody to please, nobody to answer to. My kids were grown – just me and my dog.
Footprints in the Sand
By Mary Fishback Powers (author uncertain)
The last two stanzas of the poem “Footprints in the Sand” were my life.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”
With the years of mental and emotional abuse from my dad and years of physical abuse from my ex, I lived this poem. Many times He carried me because I couldn’t walk on my own.
Why do I call abuse People Pleasing Prison?
There’s a very simple answer. If we stay in an abusive situation, we learn to be a “People Pleaser.” We have to learn how to take the abuse and still survive.
Many abuse victims don’t know how to get out from under the burden they bear. Often, trying to take the first steps results in more abuse, more oppression.
My mother was one of the victims that lived under the oppression. She didn’t marry until later in life. Very educated for her time, she maintained several successful careers, until she got married. At that time her career became subject to my dad’s control. Eventually, she rarely left the house.
It’s difficult to step out and end the abuse, the oppression. We become accustomed to the abuse until it feels normal. Many people, not always women, who do escape, often, get into another abusive relationship, even though it may seem different in the beginning. It’s comfortable, normal, but it’s still abuse.
My Steps to Freedom
In my case, I fell in love with a very fun-loving musician, yet, at times he was worse than my dad or my ex. He had been abused as a child – abuse victims often become abusers. He suffered from a very low self-image, very low self-esteem, from childhood abuse, which he projected onto me – psychological projection, a defense mechanism that denies the problem in self.
If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know that my husband had another problem which, in my opinion, contributed to childhood abuse. He suffered from ADHD. ADHD is genetic. Looking back, it’s a very high likelihood that his dad, also, suffered from ADHD. He was the abuser.
I realized the abuse felt normal, I had to change me. I went back to school to learn about the people-pleaser prison I found myself in again, and how to change my “normal.”
A Plus in Our Favor
We had several things in common, one of which, I think, contributed more to our relationship success than anything else -our relationship with Jesus. We were both preacher’s kids and been in church all our lives.
One thing I’ve learned over the years, once we have a relationship with Jesus, he never leaves. He’s there to help. Once we learn how to hear His voice, we have the help that is better than any other.
Neither of us wanted the relationship to end, so we went to Christian relationship classes. We started studying the Word for answers.
The Part ADHD Plays
I also learned to stand up and say, “No, I won’t take the blame for… This is your ADHD, this is a result of your abuse. You deal with it.”
At first, he thought I was way out of line. As we studied the Word, as we studied ADHD, he began to recognize the abuse that he had received he was passing on to me.
People who suffer from ADHD typically blame the other person for things that don’t go right because they can’t connect their words and their behavior to the cause and effect of the situation.
For example, the majority of the arguments we’ve had stem from him coming at me with a raised voice, emotions high and on edge about something. It didn’t even have to be something I did or said. It’s human nature at that point for the other person to at least come to the same voice level. But, when I did, the argument became my fault because I raised my voice. He could not see his own behavior.
It’s difficult to get a person with ADHD to see their own behavior. Because of their intense focus, all they see is the other person’s behavior. He just couldn’t see that the level of his voice escalated – an ADHD characteristic. In his opinion, I was an angry person. When I stood my ground and did not allow myself to be pushed around, I appeared to get angry for no reason.
Unlocking the Prison Doors
As a result of writing several articles about negative core beliefs and ADHD, I had to take a good look at myself. I realized that I had slipped back into people pleaser mode when I started freelancing. Sure, I wanted to do a good job for my employer, but I didn’t set good, firm boundaries so both parties understood the parameters of the job. I grew increasingly angrier. If I had set the boundaries upfront, the jobs would have gone much better. It’s easy to slip back into old habits without even being aware of what is happening.
Affirmation – Take the first steps away from people-pleasing
“I am good just the way I am. I appreciate my talents and abilities. I depend on myself for getting my needs met. I can say ‘no’. I don’t need everyone’s approval.” Psa. 27:1, “God is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?”