The name of the game is not changing to please someone.
It’s not changing so you’ll be more acceptable to someone.
It’s DEFINITELY not changing so you’ll be loved by someone.
In recovery, the name of the game is accepting some things and changing other things to make your life more livable— for you.
If you make changes to your life to please, satisfy, or attract somebody else, but those changes make it harder for you to feel good or function well, you haven’t really gained anything worth gaining.
Lots of us tend to forget that we have a right to create a life that we like living and that we find meaningful— regardless of what anybody else thinks or says.
Your life doesn’t have to be oriented toward pleasing or satisfying everyone around you all the time.
Yes, I also prefer it when the people around me or the important people in my life like and approve of what I’m doing…but we can really fall down a rabbit hole if we make other peoples’ approval the MAIN thing we’re driving at every day.
For a lot of us, this goes back to childhood.
When we’re kids, we’re VERY aware that the quality of our life depends greatly on pleasing the adults around us.
We spend a LOT of our childhood trying to figure out how to make the adults around us not yell at us— or, even better, say nice things for us.
We’re rewarded for being “good.” So being good becomes a HUGE thing in our child brain— and our only real measuring stick for whether we’re “good” or not is the approval of the adults around us.
The thing is, neither we as children, nor the adults around us, tend to be very good at making the distinction between “good” behavior…and a “good” human being.
Many people reading this had the experience of being told they were “bad,” based on a thing they did.
The script that “good people do good things, i.e. things that the people around them approve of and reward them for,” and “bad people do bad things, i.e., things that the people around them disapprove of and tell them to stop doing,” dies hard.
It’s a script that misses a LOT of nuance.
“Goodness” and “badness” are infinitely more complicated than “do the people around me like or approve of what I’m doing?”…but when we’re kids, we often don’t have the cognitive or emotional complexity (let alone the guidance and support) to realize that.
So we often carry that script into adulthood.
Right now, there are LOTS of people out there living their lives on the same assumptions that guided their childhood behavior: “If I’m a good kid, the people around me will approve of my behavior. If the people around me don’t approve of my behavior, that must mean I’m a bad kid.”
Inside of many of us is just a kid who wants to know they’re “good.” Who wants help being “good.” Who wants to be “good” because being “good” is the only way they know to guarantee they’ll be safe and wanted and protected.
So we try to be “good”— that is, we try to please others with our behavior.
We often experience great anxiety when others disapprove of our behavior— because inside of us there’s a kid who is deathly afraid that disapproval means shame, rejection, and abandonment.
Old programming dies hard.
Many adults don’t like to think of it as anything so simple. We want to think that we’ve grown beyond what drove us as kids. We want to think that we’re smarter and stronger than the child we once were, who would give anything to just be “good”— that is, be assured that they’d be safe.
But for a lot of us, it really is that simple, deep down.
And it’s not a problem we can solve without assuring that kid deep inside us that they really WILL be safe— even if we, as adults, happen to displease the people around us.
That kid inside needs us to provide the UNCONDITIONAL love that we might not have gotten.
That kid inside needs us to prove to them that their worth— that is, their safety— doesn’t depend on others’ acceptance.
That kid inside needs us to reassure them that they can be a “good kid” EVEN IF someone is mad at them, displeased with them, dismissive of them.
That kid inside needs…us.