Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Don't Play Ethel to Their Lucy

For three years I have wept, agonized, and drove my husband batty with this issue:
I am a whole-hearted, fully- committed, signed on and sealed in approved people pleaser.

I play the Ethel to your Lucy. Nudge, Nudge, Wink, Wink, I don’t take myself seriously…why should you?

I don’t have confidence in my opinions (why should I? My ex-pastor DRILLED SUBMISSION! SUBMISSION! SUBMISSION! into my head five- church- services- a- week)

Birdie on a vintage clothes line
Photo by Lilia
I don’t deserve humane treatment (why should I? My ex-pastor preached five- services- a- week about my DESPERTELY. WICKED. HEART.) *read Elizabeth Esther’s excellent post on the subject here*

After leaving the cult I frantically searched for people to make my decisions for me. I shouldn’t be trusted…right? A desperately wicked heart beats in my widdle tin chest.
I tried to give the power to my husband (he wised up and hands the decisions back), Co-workers (Oh bad move, bad move), and friends (oh WORSE move, MUCH WORSE move).

I morphed from sweet, plump, affable Ethel into monkey-wielding Elfaba (You know…the girl in green. Read Gregory McGuire’s book)


Simple. I hit the wall and hit it hard.
You, your body, your emotions are not a limitless resource. If you pour the lion share of your precious ounces of energy, hearts, and brains into pleasing others, making them happy, or resourcing their schemes YOU WILL BURN OUT.

Listen to me peeps. I’ll say it again: YOU. BURN OUT. TURN GREEN. THROW MONKEYS.

Manipulative and controlling people are on the prowl for folks like me. I am crack to their power-tripping needs. I am an easy mark.

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Maya Angelou

I will not lie to you. Giving up approval addiction is not for the faint of heart. It is a journey.
I happened upon this handy-dandy guide to being a ‘pleasant’ person without slamming into the proverbial wall of bad to no boundaries.

The book is well worth the buy. Dr. Carter includes lessons (it is a work book for a small group) and itemized lists.

Here is one such list:

Imbalanced People Pleasing

1) Encourages others to take advantage of you in disrespectful ways

2) Plays into the self-serving schemes of others

3) Allows false guilt or fear to be a motivator for behavior

4) Permits your direction to be based on the reactions of others

5) Demonstrates emotions are suppressed


7) Tries to take responsibility for others’ happiness

8) Lives with a ‘walking-on-eggshells’ feelings toward others

9) Becomes an appeaser when others are angry

10) Won’t stand up for convictions in the presence of overpowering people

The main reason I want to quit my people-pleasing addiction? I am using them in equal parts to them using me. I need their approval like an addict needs a fix. It’s a toxic paradigm. In Pysch 101 terms: It is co-dependency.
Just this freakin week I found I was doing it again (even while reading said handy dandy guide): I once again was Ethel to another peep’s Lucy. I wised up when she felt empowered enough to invade my personal space to physically move me out of the way. And act like a boss about a matter that did not concern her. And, well, I digress. The Point: She felt lordly enough to bold face treat me like a child.

Another person told me: “Yeah. I think she’s looking for a side-kick, a person to boss; not a friend.”

 I have scars on my hands from touching certain people....J.D.Salinger

 Well, gosh-nab it! I felt like Josh and Bill from History channel’s “Moonshiners”. I broke again? I ignored the steam of warning pouring out of my heightened senses again! The signs of a controlling person were laid out in front of me…And I sashayed right past them. Again. Really!!?!!?! I would have indulged in a Josh-sized fit but I don’t throw them as stylishly as he does J

When things go wrong, don’t go with them. Elvis Presley

 The only thing to do is get off the ground (I did throw a Josh fit after all. It felt good.) I am putting polite distance between the person and me. I say “no” to every offer to hang out. It’s the only way.
I read books:

I read posts:

My “No” Is Broken by Elizabeth Esther

How Running Saved My Life by Elizabeth Esther *seriously* just subscribe to EE’s blog* J

Oprah’s “O” magazine (Very committed Oprah devotee here)

It is hard for me to accept but I know this statement to be true: People only have as much control over me as I give them. I know there are semantics here for people (women and children especially) who exist in situations of absolutely no control over their life. That is another conversation for another day.

For me-right here, right now- I hold the control.

When I remember this truth I breathe deeply and slowly back away from the flying monkeys.

Wicked Witch of the West Costume by legendaryhalloween in Flickr

What about you?

How are you dealing with the manipulators, monkeys, and walls? Please share resources, posts, or stories that have encouraged you.

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