Wednesday, September 1, 2010

People-Pleasing As Shape-Shifting

I've been thinking about this lately - how does it work for my friend/spouse/family member, if I am always changing myself to accomodate them?

One of the aspects of a relationship in which I draw comfort, is in knowing certain things about the other person. I can feel safe in the knowledge that this person is this way. That knowledge not only brings a feeling of safety, it also gives me a framework upon which to build the relationship.

If the other person is a rampant people-pleaser, so that any time I endeavour to make sure that I understand where their boundaries are, and the mere asking of that question of "Where?" causes them to shift them back twenty feet, and then another twenty feet, and another and another and another - it's like quicksand. There is no foundation, no firm base upon which to stand and say, ok, this is sold ground.

Some days, when they are feeling braver, I might be walking up to where I think the boundary is from last time, and find myself being charged ferociously, and shoved backwards violently, while they yell at me about overstepping myself.

So the time after that, I am very careful to advance to the stopping line pointed out to me on our last encounter, only to have them ask in surprise, "What are you stopping there for? Come closer, a lot closer, come on, don't be so hesitant about it!"

I know I go away from this sort of thing reeling in confusion, irritation and frustration; I cannot get a clear picture of just who this person is. Every time I ask, I get a different answer. My response to this, over time, will be to distance myself. I cannot handle that level of confusion in my life anymore. I choose not to.

So flip this over, and why would I imagine that my behaving in a similar manner would be any the less distressing for those with whom I interact?

Is it possible that those for whom I've been so craven in my people-pleasing, (in my attempts to gain intimacy and closeness,) are distant for precisely the reason of my people-pleasing, and the reality that this impermanence of my boundaries, leaves them feeling lost and confused?

Could I be creating the opposite of what I seek, by doing what I do?

Could it be that I will be far more likely to have the respect I wish for, if I behave in such a way as to register more as a solid person, than a nebulous emotional shape-shifter, always changing?


"It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to."
                                                 W.C. Fields

1 comment:

  1. Being an authentic person isn't easy. But it is something that I strive to be. Great post about an issue that I have dealt with in relationships and within myself.