I have a super bad case of “people-pleaser syndrome”. Since a very young age, I have always wanted to make other people happy, no matter what it took. And not just anybody – everybody. I can remember at times being paralyzed when someone would ask, “Where do you want to go eat?” My usual answer was (and often times still is), “Eh…whatever you want.” If I ever did get brave enough to blurt out something like, “Let’s get some Mexican!” it seemed like the other person nine times out of ten would say, “No, I don’t want Mexican. How does Chinese sound?” And I would find myself doing a mental forehead-slap and saying, “Oh yeah, sorry, yeah Chinese sounds better, sorry.” (“Sorry” is probably one of the most frequently used words in my vocabulary, but I’m working on it)
This even stretched into making purchases for myself. I would often times go shopping, find a shirt I adored, then look up to realize the same damn shirt was in fifteen colors. I would sit there agonizing for long minutes thinking, “Okay, I love the blue. But my mom says blue isn’t my color. But my boyfriend/best friend/sister loves the color blue. But my favorite color is green, maybe I should get green?” Half the time I would leave without buying whatever it was at all, because the decision process was too exhausting and I would convince myself I didn’t need it.
When someone in high school told me I was “too fat” I stopped eating and got obsessive until college when someone else told me I was too skinny (I was) and I was terrified they wouldn’t like me, so I started eating. This whole people-pleasing thing led me on a roller coaster of constantly questioning myself and my decisions and who it would affect. I remember at one point someone telling me, “You know the only reason people like you is because they know they can step all over you, right?” Ouch.
Several things started helping me get over this (although this lack of confidence is something I will always have to work at). First was getting a job as a case worker. In that job, if you want to make it and not burn out in about two months, “people-pleaser” is about the worst thing you can be. For a while, I was miserable. I had parents and kids calling me every name under the sun, I had paperwork and deadlines, I had attorneys trying to trip me up so they could call me a liar. Many days I wanted to curl up under my desk and hide. However, around this same time I found something else that helped me cope: exercise. I had made up my mind I was going to run a marathon, then I also found the Insanity program through my amazing Beachbody coach, and did some weight lifting. Nothing will build confidence faster that knowing your own body is strong and that you can outrun any kids or their parents who may want to kill you (joking…sort of).
However, probably one of the biggest things was taking a good look around me and noticing that the most successful women I looked up to in my life (or maybe didn’t look up to, but respected) were all betches.
Now, let me define the word “betch” for you. In college, I had a group of friends and we all referred to each other as “betches” as a joke but recently it’s taken on a different meaning for me. In my head, a “betch” is a strong woman with a strong opinion who does not give a crap what other people think. A Facebook friend is talking bad about them? Delete. They hear a co-worker doesn’t agree with them but won’t say it to their face? They will go talk to them. A relationship isn’t working out? Sorry, but you’re in my way and I have a lot to accomplish. However, these women are also incredibly sensitive and will do anything for the people they love. Some people refer to these women as “bitches” but I think it’s just men and women who are intimidated by them and need to make themselves feel better (I have been guilty of this, and I think most have).
I noticed something. Even though these women never changed their opinions just to make someone else happy, they still had a TON of friends – including a lot of friends that really didn’t agree with them on a lot of topics! What?! Here’s the reason: even thought their opinion is strong, it doesn’t mean other people aren’t entitled to theirs as well. Betches recognize that everyone has value, and that quite possibly they can learn something from the other person even if they don’t agree. However, if that other person is being disrespectful, rude, or not doing the same for them – snip! – they don’t need to have that negativity hanging around. They have a raw honesty that is always present and are the kinds of friends that will tell you that dress looks effing awful on you, but that top is super cute. You respect them, you appreciate them, and they are your best friend.
Most people are that kind of friend. All my best friends are that way with me and I try to be that way with them. The difference between myself and betches though, is that they are that way with everyone they meet, not just their best friends. They don’t sugar-coat just because they don’t know you – they tell it like it is, which is why sometimes even strangers feel like they’ve known a betch forever. Betches are the most amazing people you will ever meet, and you will always be better for having known them, even if you didn’t like/agree with them.
Recently, I started opening up to the lessons these betches have to teach me instead of resisting, avoiding, or agreeing with them. And I have found betches everywhere. My best friend, sister, sister-in-law, an old supervisor, mentors, my Beachbody coach, and others are the most amazing people who, even though they don’t know it, are helping me gain my confidence back. I may never be a full-on amazing betch, but every day I try to do little mental exercises to make sure that “sorry” isn’t the first word to pop out of my mouth when I have a differing opinion or that I don’t automatically turn bright red if attention is directed at me. To most people this means I’m trying to be more assertive which, as one betch once told me, “Assertive doesn’t mean I’m rude or enjoy conflict, it just means I’m in control of me.”
Now I want to make it clear, I’m not trying to change my personality to reflect someone else’s (trust me, no two betches are the same). I’m just trying to build myself up to more fully be who I was meant to be. Instead of walking into an interview or a party full of strangers and thinking, “just be quiet, agree, and don’t rock the boat” sometimes thinking, “now what would (insert betch here) do?” helps me throw my shoulders back, sit up straight, and talk more passionately and unabashedly about who I am and what I believe. I find “betch music” helps too – listening to songs by women who sing about being passionate, unashamed, and strong (“Brave” by Sara Bereilles is my current fave).
It will take me a lifetime to become who I was truly meant to be (as it does everyone) but I honestly am so grateful because I feel as if I am getting there with the help of one amazing betch at a time.