You aren’t a traditional sidewalk passerby nor are you a street dweller. You pave new trails. You lace up your worn-out boots with your dirty soles and you get things done. You do what you have to do to survive because you are brave and courageous and all that badass stuff. But that doesn’t mean you don’t get scared sometimes. Yep. Sometimes you are an anxiety-battling Sheena (I just dated myself there) and hiding under all that toughness is a layer of fear.
I battle this too.
What is the main indicator of fear?
Fear looks like a person who is trying to control everything.
If you are like me, you might see your own performance as a way to boost your ego. If you aren’t performing, you are failing. If you are failing, you are worthless. You are highly-competitive, impatient, and even aggressive at times. You have a sense of urgency–if you don’t get it done, who will? And you don’t enjoy your accomplishments even when you do achieve them.
You are self-critical and you fear being seen as anything but perfect.
You are manipulative.
Did that sting a little bit to hear? Me too.
Fear Leads to Controlling Others
When I first heard that my people-pleasing, failure avoiding ways were actually an attempt to control and manipulate other people, I stopped in my tracks. I spent some time contemplating all my actions and patterns and realized that for all my self-care strategies, I was losing big time with this one. In fact, I had no idea I was even being manipulative! I thought I was doing myself a favor by avoiding pain and hurt (which I was doing), but I didn’t realize I was hurting other people to do it.
What’s Wrong with a Little Manipulation?
Let’s break it down.
According to dictionary.com, the term “manipulative” is an adjective that is defined as:
influencing or attempting to influence the behavior or emotions of others for one’s own purposes
Ok, so what? How does this hurt other people?
Let’s talk a minute about what we do when we manipulate another person to like us and accept us.
When you manipulate another person, you want them to like you, to think the best of you, to not see you in a negative light. That’s why you don’t let down your guard or let them see the “real” you. What you do let them see is a version of yourself that you’ve put forward that allows you to be seen as the brave, selfless hard worker who never gets a break. You have become a “yes” person with a savior complex.
So you often are saying YES and never letting that person see the real you….the woman with a lot of other things going on…the imperfect wife and mother….the stressed out and sometimes resentful person…your humanity… You put on a face and pretend that you are great. And you prevent the other person from experiencing conflict, having to work through their own problems, or allowing them to grow because you are always saying YES and taking on their workload. It seems like you are being nice and maybe your heart is that you do genuinely want to help, but by helping ALL THE TIME, you stress yourself out and you prevent them from learning about themselves.
The Fear of Failure
Why do we do this? Why can’t we just be real?
The fear of failure comes to mind. We’ve been through rejection or felt the sting of failure or watched as someone became disappointed in us and so now our brains are trying to protect us from that outcome. We don’t want to relive that again. We have to work at convincing our brain that it’s ok to fail or struggle. It’s ok to let people down. It’s even ok if we get rejected.
The Gift of YOU
To be real with ourselves is a gift. To learn to be self-aware, how to advocate for ourselves, and set boundaries even if it means we disappoint some people means we are living a life of truth. And if we fail, that means we tried. And if we live this dishonest kind of life, we don’t allow for any kind of genuine friendship or relationship. Because believe it or not, there are people out there who are more than OK with your failures and out-of-the-norm personality. When you are being manipulative, you shut the door on the good things too.
- honest conversations
- having conflicts that lead to a deeper relationship
- letting down your guard and being supported
- letting others feel safe expressing their feelings to you
- growing in empathy towards others
- supporting another person and helping them grow
- learning to advocate for yourself
- accepting who you are and growing in confidence in that truth
So what does all this mean?
It means that instead of trying to control and manipulate our relationships and how people see us, we’d do well to remember that this is just a defense mechanism from our past. We might get people to like us, but it’s not a real relationship. People are getting a false version of who you are. That’s not fair to you or to them. Friendships can happen even if we aren’t perfect. In fact, I’d say friends that know the real you and still love you, wanting to be around you, are a treasure. The friends you manipulated into liking you are paper thin. The moment a storm comes, they’ll probably flee. If people only love you when you are at your best, then is it really a true friendship? Is it really worth keeping?
In order to be real, you need to first know the REAL you. Try this:
Grab a sheet of paper and create two columns. On one side write “I am”. On the other side write “I am a”.
In the first column, you might write all the character traits that define you. “I am honest; I am caring; I am empathetic;” For the other column, you might write “I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a musician. I am a dog lover.” Fill in the list and see what feelings arise from this. Are you showing others who you really are?
Finally, I’d like you to watch this video I created that explains how to be honest and not wait until you are about to explode.
Keep this definition in mind for when you start thinking failure is evil…
- F – First
- A – Attempt
- I – In
- L – Learning
To fail is to be successful at efforts in learning. Why not fail at people-pleasing?
Let’s move closer to being a truly healthy person. Let’s not manipulate or control others, but allow ourselves the opportunity to show others the real person that we are…even if that means the relationships we have falls apart.
It might also mean we have to feel the hard things. That’s ok. It helps us to become a step closer to self-awareness and self-kindness when we accept the person that we are.