“Nothing disappears until we tell you what we need to know.” ~ Pemaschadron
The hardest part of hearing the words “I’m sorry, but I got cancer” at the age of 30 was because I knew I had to tell my mother and husband.
Not because I was afraid of their reaction, but because my dad died of cancer three years ago, especially because I was going to take on a role I had never experienced before, a patient.
For me, being a patient was the same as being dependent. Those who are in need and have demanded that others change their lives in order to deal with them. It wasn’t me.
I pleased people. Self-sacrifice. A sympathizer who can feel the emotions of my family and worked hard not to increase their stress.
I spent my whole life trying to make people around me easier. I didn’t complain. I didn’t ask for anything. I gladly gave up my desire to make others happy.
I built my life on the premise that I could handle everything myself. But suddenly my mantra, “I’m fine, don’t worry,” was changing.
As a young mother with two children under the age of three, I knew I needed help during cancer treatment. And that fact was more horrifying than my diagnosis.
Growing up, my family didn’t have money. My mother and dad worked in the opposite shift to avoid paying for day care, and in many cases it was only me and my two brothers guarding for us ..
I’ve never been hungry, but I haven’t always had a lot of food choices. I remember the days when I wore powdered milk and my brother’s old and shabby clothes.
As an empathy, I could feel the tension when my parents tried to make ends meet. So I learned to be quiet. Shrink. Don’t make waves. Do you have milk for cereals? Well, I use water. cold? All you have to do is wear a winter coat in your house. I became very good at being “easy” and it became part of my identity.
“Oh, Natalie doesn’t cause us any problems,” was what I received as a compliment. It was overwhelming, but over time it became an essential part of me to please people.
As I got older, my life became a little easier. I got a job and started making my own money, and my parents respected my independence. More importantly, I was able to leave a habit of pleasing people for some time. I went to college, then graduate school, and became a psychologist who helped others lead a better life.
I was a helper. It’s a more acceptable way to guide a lifestyle that pleases my people. And it worked well to keep my people away. Until I became a mother.
When I gave birth, my husband and I decided to stay home to raise a child. I was fortunate to make this choice, but it evoked a tendency to please my people.
In my mind, I was at home, so my husband went to work, so I needed to make everything as easy as possible. Even while recovering from overnight feeding, changing diapers, bathing, and complex caesarean sections, my autoresponder was “I got it.”
When my husband intervened, I reminded him how he needed sleep because he had to go to work, and if I wasn’t tired, or if I did it it would be ” It was fast. “
are you tired? Yes. Did you sleep during the day? Anyone with children knows the answer. But that’s all I knew. It’s an easy way to prevent everyone else from feeling emotional.
I fought fiercely when my cancer diagnosis threatened to lose the ability to handle everything myself. I drove myself to my test schedule and refused support groups or counseling. And if they allowed it, I would probably have driven myself to book a mastectomy and chemotherapy.
Others called me “strong” and “stoic,” but I was confused when I heard it until my mother asked me. What does that mean? I shrugged. That was exactly the way I was wired.
Thankfully, my cancer journey soon passed and I returned to my daily life in a few months. I was healthy and devoted to parenting.
Still, I started thinking about my mother’s question and wondered why I consistently refused help from someone.
It took a few years and a lot of reading and soul quest, but I realized that my empathy wasn’t just about understanding the feelings of others. Feeling How others feel. And the habit of pleasing my people was an attempt to remove discomfort from my loved ones.
I didn’t live a real life for myself. I lived for others. And that was a time of change.
Here are five ways I moved from pleasing people to self-care:
1. I learned about boundaries.
Setting boundaries is one of the most useful and basic activities that can be performed to disrupt the process of pleasing people. I started listening to my body and realized it when I felt uncomfortable about how I was treated, someone asking me for something. These were good indicators of the need for boundaries.
2. I practiced saying no.
I always tell my kids that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you need to.
3. I did some self-inquiry.
My kids will ask me, “What is your favorite food?” Or “what is your favorite color?” And I could never answer. Why? I was used to getting along so I didn’t develop my favorites or even the basic sense of what I really like and dislike.
4. I started journaling.
I used writing to help me learn about myself. Who am I who has nothing to do with anyone else? I asked myself questions, listed my wishes / desires, and took small steps to achieve those goals.
5. I was kind to myself.
I understand this is a process. I’m still recovering, but I’m aware of when I’m struggling to please others, not myself.
Ultimately, the transition from pleasing to self-care has allowed me to be stronger not only for myself, but for the people I care most about. It was not easy to get out of the way that was adapted to the situation as a child.
I had to rewire my brain in stages, and it’s still a process. It’s ironic that the lack of cancer choice ultimately gave me freedom of change.