I’d been a people pleaser for as long as I can remember. You see, I learned early on in life that it was simply easier to keep the peace than risk confrontation and daring to challenge other people’s bad behaviour only leads to misery. It inadvertently became part of my core being to placate others and most of my decisions were based on what would make them happy or comfortable. Right there, a ‘Yes Girl’ was born.
I could sense a potential confrontation bubbling before it began (it’s a bit of shit superpower to be fair. I’d have much preferred Bernard’s watch) and instinctively sprang into action to prevent any drama from going down. This led me to be utterly incapable of setting boundaries, stemming from a deep-rooted fear of the consequences. Over the years, I’ve found myself in situations that I didn’t want to be in out of fear of saying no.
I’d nod along dutifully as people spouted utter drivel, internally rolling my eyes and scoffing at their absolute nonsense yet knowing better than to question their opinions ‘out loud’, even if it made me miserable. This trait wasn’t just born out of some altruistic, virtuous need to be viewed as a nice person – it was truly ingrained.
The problem came when I realised that fundamentally, I didn’t know who I was. I had spent so many years quickly figuring out who others wanted me to be at any given moment – and adapting to meet that expectation out of fear of causing disappointment – that my own identity was muted and something I was wholly unfamiliar with.
Part of this enigma came as a result of Neil’s sudden death and I was thrown into a ‘Fuck It, Life Can’t Get Much Worse Than This’ kind of mentality (not always a good thing but hey, at least I didn’t go on a massive drug-fuelled bender and sleep with Dean Gaffney or something equally as damaging and traumatic.)
I started to question the often ill-informed opinions and dubious behaviour of those around me. It began brewing quietly and I kept it to myself for a while. Then eventually, after being unable to listen to it for a moment longer, I felt the anger and frustration rising.
A voice I barely recognised began to loudly challenge the verbal diarrhoea and just like that, my life was changed. Yes, the aftermath wasn’t pretty (tbh, I probably could have handled it better, rather than releasing years of pent-up frustration in the space of ten minutes) but the sense of liberation that followed was incredibly satisfying.
I’d always had a solid (mis)understanding that it was not polite to make a fuss when faced with such troublesome circumstances – just nod, smile and agree Lisa. It came as nothing short of a revelation to me that disagreements can actually be a good thing. That being bullied into submission isn’t the only option and that debates can come from a positive, healthy place.
My self-worth and confidence have grown dramatically over the past few years, to the point where I’m truly happy for the first time in my life. In my eyes, ‘It’s just the way he/she is’ is no longer a valid excuse for being rude, arrogant or unwilling to listen to other people.
Some folks didn’t like my assertive trait, but it soon helped sort the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. If attempting to have a grown-up conversation only led to shouting and insults then it was time to burn those bridges. There really is an underrated strength in being considerate towards others yet still sticking by your own boundaries and morals, isn’t there?
Don’t get me wrong, this is very much something I’m still working on. Nobody particularly enjoys these types of uncomfortable scenarios and some days, I simply don’t have the mental energy to deal with it so I will let things go when I probably shouldn’t. For the most part though, I’m eternally thankful that I finally found my voice and will never allow another human being to make me feel inferior again.