Growing up, I was not the most popular girl in kindergarten. I did get married in the sandbox to my crush though- that was a high point. Anyway, we can blame it on the fact that I was an extreme introvert…or I can be honest and say that it was most likely because I had no idea how to be a friend. I say that because when it came to friendship, I cared more about pleasing others and making sure that ‘everyone’ liked me than being myself and learning to be real with people.
I am about to share a story with you that I know with lead to either pure judgement or you will want to call me up and invite me over to your house. It could honestly go either way. Throughout elementary school I was able to live next door to one of my best friends. It was pretty awesome! We literally spent every day together- either at her house, my house, or the small treehouse in between. I loved hanging out at her house, mainly because it meant getting away from my twin brothers. And on almost ever occasion, when we hung out at her house…I cleaned her room. Weird, I know! But that’s how I showed people that I cared- I did things for them, such as cleaning their rooms! I would organize her room, fold her laundry, make her bed. I was desperately wanting friendship and to please others that I literally would clean their rooms for them. I did the same thing for my sister. I think I more so did it for my sister because I was afraid she would beat me up if I didn’t, but either way…I did it. Being liked by people meant so much to me that I would literally do things for them just to make sure that they would like me without caring at all about my own feelings. (pathetic, I know).
I mastered the art of people pleasing. In High School I diagnosed myself with “approval addiction”. Of course, I didn’t share this diagnosis with anyone, but it was very apparent that I cared WAY. TOO. MUCH. about what others thought of me. After years of thinking this was what it looked like to be a good friend- it molded me into someone who cared more about being liked than being real and honest about my feelings. I had literally become a human doormat. Not all people pleasers are doormats, but I sure was one.
Now, I am not saying this so that you feel sorry for me or so you ask me to come over (secretly hoping that I clean your entire house). I am sharing this because I think that too often we strive for the attention and approval of others that we lose ourselves. We feel that the real us is not enough or won’t be liked- so we change. We adapt. We become human chameleons.
One day I realized I had had enough. I was exhausted and lonely. I didn’t have any real, deep friendships. I had a lot of platonic friendships- which were okay, but I wanted those real, messy friendships. But in order to get that- something needed to change. The truth is, I had stopped being direct and sharing my honest emotions with people because I was afraid of hurting their feelings. I took everything so freakin personal- and most of the time, if not all the time, I had assumed things completely wrong. And I was assuming that I knew the motives of people and what they thought about me. Assuming is never truly a good thing. Anyway, all of those things left me feeling alone and tired.
I was standing in my own way of having the friendships that I truly craved.
So I took to praying about it DAILY. And two years later, I have some of the most REAL, MESSY, VULNERABLE, HONEST friendships! And I love them. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. They aren’t always easy, but they are real.
Here is what I had to learn: its okay if someone doesn’t like me. This is definitely a hard lesson for anyone who struggles with approval addiction. And I was NO different. It scared me to the core at first to realize this- it felt unnatural.
Why couldn’t everyone like me?
I’m pretty likable, right?
But as much has it was a hard concept for me to grasp, it was a much needed lesson and one that would ultimately change the way I viewed friendships and the way I was intentional in my friendships.
I had to learn to say ‘no’ to people…and not feel guilty about it. Saying ‘no’ felt like I could hurt someone’s feelings- so I was always that ‘yes’ girl. I also had to learn limits and boundaries, for myself and for my friendships. (that took a while, but I am getting a hold of it). And I had to learn to be more direct and honest with those God brought into my life, even if they didn’t necessarily like what I was saying or understand my feelings on the matter. I spent way too many years dancing around subjects for fear of hurting someone’s feelings or being misunderstood. But over the past couple years I have learned that being more direct and honest with my emotions is one of the most liberating things.
I had lost myself in approval addiction for so many years (about 30ish years if I am being honest)! But learning to be real, vulnerable, and direct about things was seriously life changing. If you look at all like how I use to look: easily irritated, working way too hard, going too fast and shouldering all the weight without stopping to ask for help. I encourage you to take time for yourself, to be more direct and be truthful about how you feel in your friendships, and to say no to things that you can’t do. Don’t be that ‘yes’ girl.