I have spoken many times of the frustration being told how you 'should' feel about things.
The tendency to employ the 'shoulds' is often done by those who identify as optimists.
To suggest to another person, big or small, how they 'SHOULD' feel or be is NOT optimism, it is expectation.
Here's what I know about those who dish out the 'shoulds'... they will claim it as an 'unselfish' (their word, more on this below) desire for YOU to 'be happy' but really what they want is for you to feel / do / be what THEY want you to feel / do/be.
Because they can't STAND it any other way. And there is a reason for that. It's because they also don't allow themselves to feel any other way than that dictated by the tyranny of their shoulds.
Albeit mostly unintentional on the part of those dispensing the 'shoulds', it is still the case that SHOULD is a shaming mechanism... an instrument of control. One that communicates expectation and non acceptance of anything less than that expectation. And if you don't deliver? Well, you are condemned.
It is suffocating**.
This tool was most likely learned in childhood. And it is so internalised, they can't even recognise it. In Ireland, we are famous for the 'should'. When you are Irish, shame is your middle name.
When someone invests their energy in telling you how you / things SHOULD be, they are also saying 'YOU, currently are not meeting my standards and expectations and are disappointing me'. The subtext of this then is 'disappointing ME is not allowed'. Which by extension translates to a general rule that DISAPPOINTMENT is not allowed.
Now where does that come from? This 'rule', this injunction on disappointment? And also... if that rule is there, then it's safe to assume it's there because the person in servitude to it is a RULE follower, then one has to ask... how is that working out for you? Has it made you a perpetual pleaser? Probably.
How many people have you wanted or NEEDED to disappoint but couldn't because it was against the rules?
I am a rule breaker. I will disappoint you.
It has gotten me in trouble before and will continue to get me in trouble but not half as much trouble or detriment as living my life investing energy 'as if' something bad is going to happen if I don't spend it trying to please and have everyone marvel at how good a girl I am. And then I spend the rest of my energy supressing and denying my very real but also unacceptable feelings of resentment for being trapped in this *thankless* role of 'pleaser'. I REFUSE to do that. I'm not going to live with that kind of resentment. I actually don't have the level of energy to supress it even if I did.
It is a hard thing not to be a 'good' little girl, when you are a child. But it is good training, because when you become a woman... in a society and culture that excels in making women feel bad about themselves unless they are everyTHING to everyONE, you need to be able to say NO. I WON'T.
You could never pay me enough to sacrifice mySELF to that degree. And that's often what is expected by pleasers. REWARD. The most enormous servings of it you can imagine. A pleasers' need for reward is a bottomless pit.
They want (and need) reward in such high doses that it is IMPOSSIBLE to maintain the supply. It is absorbed and consumed so rapidly, that they don't even recognise the little bit they do get. So they want MORE and when you can't supply it, YOU become the reason they are starved of what they need. You become the reason they have NOTHING to show for all their sacrifice. You become their scapegoat for what is self created but disowned.
Until they AWAKEN to their role and how it serves them, pleasers are UNaware of the demands they place on others for reward. They are unaware of the very real, but self perpetuating need they are displacing onto others expecting it to be fulfilled. When you get chosen as supplier, you are set up to fail.
It's a terrible affliction for the pleaser and it's a damned contract for anyone s/he has chosen from whom to draw supply.
You can identify victims of this pattern also by their relationship with the word 'SELFISH'. To the pleaser, this word is Kryptonite. It surfaces when there is potential for disappointment in any given situation. Any attempt, successful or not, to prioritise SELF and thereby invite disappointment, is deemed selfish.
But here's the thing. They so desperately want to be like that. PLEASERS ARE EXHAUSTED. What they wouldn't give to be selfish 'for a change'. What they wouldn't give to disappoint. But they can't, because... RULES.
I tried it, I did. I tried to subordinate myself into being a good girl. It would have spared me a lot of grief. It would have spared me a lot of marching to the principles office. It would have spared me the DREAD of every parent teacher meeting day. It would have spared me the wrath of a 62 year old, 6ft 2 bully who didn't like the fact that I, at 30 years of age, had an opinion that differed from his own. He didn't like that I defied his self imposed 'authority' over me. As is true of most authoritarians. It would have spared me being labeled, pigeonholed and written off as 'difficult', 'troublesome', 'selfish', 'scary', 'impossible'.
It would have spared me a lot of...
Loss of control (there is no such thing, btw).
Conflict (another form of Kryptonite)
Being 'a pleaser' would have spared me a lot of letting go in relationships that could not survive unless, [in my mind], one of us performed that role.
For some reason, I've paired up with quite a lot of 'selfish' people who refused to take on the role. So in those relationships, I tried hard to please... it was my attempt to manipulate a dynamic that used to be very scary for me. And guess what I discovered?
I am the shittiest pleaser, ever.
It brings out the very worst in me. And inevitably, I have lost ALL the relationships in which this pattern was activated. Yes. A pleaser is one who inevitably experiences A LOT of something else they cannot cope with: LOSS
I learnt most from those relationships and do you know why? Because they taught me something.
***NOBODY HAS EVER DIED FROM DISAPPOINTMENT***
It's true! Nobody has ever, in the history of time, died by disappointment.
If you are a pleaser...let that sink in for a minute.
I don't like being suffocated by anyone or anything. In school, in work, in relationships... and unless you GET that about me, you won't truly get me. If you can't accept that about me, you won't truly have me.
As Wallis Bird sings in the stirring 'In Dictum'.
'The more you hold on to me, the less you can have of me'
I do not 'enjoy' disappointing people but I can and will do it. And here's why it is something I DO:
If I am in your life, it's because I WANT to be.
If I am with you, it's because I WANT to be.
Not because I am expected to be.
Not because I am afraid.
Not because I am obliged.
I am with you because I CHOOSE to be.
I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT SO DEEPLY THAT THERE CAN BE NO DOUBT.
When I am with you, I give you ME.
And that is the best I have to give.
And if that's not enough, I know this in my heart: it's not because I failed.
**This is an emotional topic and a hard one. The very fact that it IS difficult to get comfortable with disappointment, is indicative of the social conditioning around it. However, I encourage you to rethink, especially if the thought of causing disappointment brings up anxiety and fear. Why? Because that is a red flag.
The physical manifestation of this discomfort usually shows up in the rush of energy that flows up from the gut (solar plexus) but gets 'stuck' in the throat area. It may 'feel' like a difficulty swallowing, a choking or a suffocating. That's your body's way of signalling the presence of this dis-ease.
I truly believe the health and value of relationships can be measured by the degree to which they are authentic. And while that requires a lot of hard and scary work, some facing of demons, it's only temporary until you adjust to a new way of being.
But it's worth it. Because the alternative is a quagmire. A breeding ground for resentment. And who wants to live like that?
Always, Amanda xoxo