Trait: “I can say no and draw boundaries even when it makes someone mad.”
Those of us who are insecure pleasers and victims have a really tough time with this one. The thought of disagreeing with someone, opposing them, initiating conflict about difficult topics and saying “NO!” to someone causes us to become super anxious and fearful. The last thing we want to do is to make someone angry which would then potentially separate or alienate us from them. Why? Because as pleasers and victims our insecurity has so much power over us that we need to keep others close to us so that we feel safe. Sounds wimpy doesn’t it? It is! But it prevalence in our adult lives is not without good reason.
Somewhere as a child, the pleasers and victims were around someone bigger than they were… a parent… upon whom they were dependent, who would manifest anger, rage or quiet withdrawal that purposely or inadvertently punished the child. Relief for the child came when smiles were back on the faces and the emotional moods had softened. Then and only then could the pleaser / victim child relax and rest their little soul.
When frightened by another’s anger or threat of separation, the pleaser freezes. They loose words, the ability to think quickly and experience panicky feelings and anxiety which reduce them to the emotional state they felt as a child. Big on the outside, little on the inside. And while this childlike behavior can looks wimpy and weak, it is really not your fault that the problem exists. It’s not your fault… it’s not your fault… it’s not your fault! Why, because the pleaser and victim did not cause the problem, their parents did. And while I’m not here to cast blame, this blog is devoted to helping explain why we do what we do as adults and how it sabotages our relationships.
While we cannot help the hand that was dealt to us, as adults we do have to play the hand and do our best to upgrade our cards and elevate our game to the highest level. The Bible says in James 5:12 “…let your yes be yes and your no, no.” Sounds simple, but for many of us recovering pleasers and victims, it is terrifying to seemingly put ourselves at risk and say “No!” Or to set up a boundary like God does with the sea and the seashore which sets a boundary where the water will end, and the dry land begin.
“And I placed boundaries on it,
And I set a bolt and doors,
And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no further;
And here your proud waves stop (Job 38:10)’”.
For many of us, because we cannot say no or set boundaries, there is no line of demarcation as to where others start and stop and where I begin and end. There is no sense of being an individual or being different from others.
Here are four fears the recovering pleaser or victim will have to overcome in order to become a more secure connector and have the ability to say no and establishboundaries:
The fear of fatal and final: While as a small child the older bigger adult had so much power and influence us and their actions felt fatal and final, as an adult, only in rare occasions are conflicts fatal and final. Most adult conflicts produce minor injuries which will heal and are only temporary. As such they are less threatening and far more manageable.
The fear of being alone: As a child, to be alone or lost, meant that you were helpless and disoriented. As an adult, we need to constantly test and exercise our ability to be alone and tolerate separation from others, and while we may feel helpless at times, as adults we can learn to successfully tolerate and be happy in our alone moments.
The fear of not knowing: As a child we needed immediate gratification and information to produce security. As an adult, we must accept the idea, that much of life and it’s future if filled with uncertainty and not knowing. Resting in not knowing is a key to being secure.
The fear of unresolved issues: Along with not knowing, is the adult reality that much of life has much that is unresolved. Learning to live securely under the stress of unresolved answers and outcomes especially when someone is mad, is important for resolving the anxiety that plagues pleasers and victims.
Bless you on your journey of growth as you exercise your spiritual, emotional and relational muscles. Be sure to share your growth goals with God and with others and ask them for help and feedback along the way.
Thanks for listening,