Balancing Act

You guys, it has been a strange weekend so far. I was in the middle of a rather whiny post for today about how I need to stop being such a people pleaser, but when it came down to it, the words didn’t feel right. I was given a gentle reminder from the universe (very early) this morning that a personal characteristic can cut both ways.

I am a people pleaser in the sense that I will go to great lengths to make others happy, often at my own expense. This is particularly true of people I know, although I do experience some guilt for turning down strangers sometimes. I suppose for a long time I was a people pleaser in the sense that I planned my life around what would make my family happy. I learned the hard way that I can’t live like that and, luckily, I’ve been able to make some much needed (healthy) life changes. I’ve also found ways to process the guilt trips I get from the family from time to time (bittersweet smile). But I still haven’t been able to find a balance on the other former variation – let’s call it empathy for now.

I’ve allowed my compulsion to help others feel better to land me in quite a few awkward situations, and occasionally some rather uncomfortable ones as well. Friday night I let this whatever override my gut feeling that it was, fundamentally, a bad idea and now I think I’ve helped perpetuate a situation that’s only going to get worse before it gets better. I don’t want to get into the details, but it certainly was awkward and uncomfortable. I was so incredibly relieved when I made it to the safety of my condo, but the experience has totally thrown off my groove for the weekend.

Then this morning (as in about 4:30), the universe decided to send me a gentle reminder that it’s not all bad. We had a power outage and my downstairs neighbor called a little freaked out (yes, the ones who called the cops on me; yes, we are becoming friends now – smile). So I splashed some water on my face, grabbed a flashlight, and headed downstairs to keep her company for a while. After a nap we went to brunch and had a fabulous time! We’ve been tentatively growing our friendship, but we’d both kind of let it lag. I was so happy she felt she could call me, and more than happy to give up a little sleep to provide some comfort/company. I won’t say it totally negated Friday, but it was a nice reminder that sometimes you can actually be there for someone in a positive way. I really needed that reminder.

I’ve been doing a lot of introspection lately and – shockingly enough – it’s been pretty positive. I recognize that I allow other people to dictate parts of my life because I have some strange inner need to make them feel better, to help them out somehow if I can. I also recognize that some people take advantage of this trait and it can be a serious detriment to my life. What I need to be better at is filtering out the bad situations and sticking with the good. It takes a lot to say no to someone, especially someone you know. It can change their perspective of you, and you have to be strong enough to be okay with the outcome. I think that I’m in a good place to make some necessary but difficult decisions. I just hope I can do it without over-correcting. Because empathy isn’t a bad quality unless you allow it to be abused. Sometimes, it can bring together new friends – and make for some very entertaining stories!

sun through the tree tops

Because I can’t resist adding a pretty photo – I present one of my happy place pics 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Balancing Act

  1. glad you and your neighbor are becoming friends! It can certainly be hard for many people to say no to others. I am getting quite good at this at work although it does certainly come with its own risks and consequences:) I think we all need to examine why we feel compelled to always say yes (or no) to requests from others. Often saying yes it is coming out of a need to be liked, feel good about one’s self, not let people down, etc. which is a good thing for the most part but can lead to being taken advantage of as you mentioned. Achieving a healthy balance of prioritizing one’s own needs while still helping others is hard, but good for you for working on this!

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    • Thanks! It’s certainly a challenge and I think it’s going to require a lot more introspection to get a better handle on why I take on some things I know I shouldn’t. My personal life (friends, family, etc) is the area where I really have to focus – and like you said, each choice (especially saying no) definitely has its own risks and rewards 🙂
      As for the neighbor, I’m really glad we’re becoming friends as well. A classic example of misunderstandings and being able to see both sides of a story. And an entertaining story it will always be 🙂

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  2. Hey … it’s a very interesting post! Lots of food for thought here. ‘People-pleasers’ … aren’t we all a bit of that?! At least, most of us want to be liked. A few just don’t care. Empathy — there’s way to little of that going around. If more people would do some little thought-experiment and try to place themselves in the other person’s situation, they would perhaps not be as quick to harsh judgements.

    In any event, it’s a very fine line one has to balance, in order to keep ones own well-being. I don’t have family I have to deal with the way you have, so at least that’s one thing. It does feel good when someone trusts you enough, for you to be the chosen one in a situation like the power-outage. I’ve had similar experiences at times, and it made me feel good.

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    • You’re so right – I often think the world could use a little more empathy and a lot less apathy! Growing up I always heard the “how would you feel if you were in their position” question. I think that’s had a huge impact on the way I live life and some of my actions, for better or worse.
      I had trouble writing this post in a way that I felt (and hoped) didn’t sound too arrogant – I’m certainly no saint and there’s no way I can save the world. But it is a great feeling to be able to help someone, especially if there’s a chance they’ll pay it forward. It feels good to put some “niceness” out in the world. The ones that don’t even recognize that there may be something there to appreciate are the ones that are draining – and the ones I’m trying to get better at avoiding! Fine line indeed… 🙂

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