what i've learned along the way
the balance between autonomy and guilt
Published on February 21, 2004 By lobsterhunter In Personal Relationships
Most of my life, I have been the poster child for people pleasers. Today it's called co-dependency. Regardless of the title, I have it. I spend the majority of my time doing things I don't want to do, because I am afraid of other people's responses. I hate dissapointing the people I care about, so I generally take on whatever personality they expect me to have. Unfortunately this has left me without an identity, and often times I have become an ineffective doormat.

When God first began to shed light of this issue, I was left feeliing so insecure and uncertain of who I was. I am just now finding my way. However, old habits die hard, and of course I fear the other extreme. I don't want to be a bulldozer who always demands his way and never considers other's feelings. This is where guilt comes in and attempts to keep me trapped in destructive thinking patterns.

This morning I was invited to have lunch with my roomate and my sister. Due to an overnight babysitting commitment, I didn't get home until mid-morning, and as soon as I walked in the door, I was instructed to "go get ready". My initial reaction was to obey. They asked me to go with them, so I was obligated to join them on their afternoon outing. On the inside, I knew what I wanted. I preferred to stay at home and catch up on some laundry. I needed to run errands, get my oil changed, and do a little shopping. Lunch at Panera Bread was not what I had on my agenda. I figured I should go, just because. At this poing I realized the "should" was the driving force in my decision making process. Not good for a recovering people pleaser! I told my roomies I had changed my mind, and decided to pass on the lunch invitiation.

Now to some of you out there, this may seem like no big deal, but for me, it was a huge step in the direciton of autonomy. Very seldom do I understand where I begin and others end. It's a monumental challenge for me to express what I want and need. Most of the time it only makes me feel selfish and unkind. I certainly do not want to become so self centered, that my wants and needs are put above all others. Where is the balance, and should there even be a balance? Doesn't Christ call us to serve sacrificially?

More questions than answers. Wisdom welcome.

on Feb 21, 2004
I've found that sometimes it's best just to say no just to remind yourself that you can. It's kind of like a personal power trip. Staying home from that party you're not to keyed in on and watching a flick or whatever the case may be. It's all about balance, you gotta make sure that the sacrifices you're making of yourself to other people are intertwined with doing something for yourself. Even giving of yourself can be "for you" in many circumstances. But if you're not getting that vibe then I don't see any reason why you can't take a day off from undesired commands. Breaking plans is only tolerable if you grant the people you're doing it to the same courtesy should they ever feel inclined to...uhh...decline.
on Feb 21, 2004
My guess is that you are younger than age 40. Aging helps. I recommend reading any book you can find
on personal boundaries. Start with an oldie: "Your Erroneous Zones", by Dr. Wayne Dyer. Even Jesus
left the crowds and went off for time by himself sometimes. Good luck.
on Feb 22, 2004

Thanks for your comment. I suppose your last sentence is what struck me the most. I want others to accept my "no", but do I willingly respect their right to do the same? The balance seems to be hiding.
on Feb 22, 2004

I am under 40. Twenty-four to be exact. I look forward to the day that age is not a hindrance, but a help. Experience is a gift. I will check out the book you mentioned. Thanks for reminding me about Jesus taking a break.
on Feb 22, 2004
Christ calls us to serve sacrificially, but in order to maintain peak ability to do so, we must allow ourselves time to be refreshed. There has to be balance, or else even giving is stealing, if you know what I mean.

on Feb 22, 2004
I dont' even know what you mean.