My granddaughter and I have talked about the difficulty of holding on to ourselves in relationships. I don’t think this phenomenon is restricted to women, but I know much more about it from my own angle.
In my younger years I lost myself religiously and sometimes consciously. I believed that it was my job to please my man (and my friends, and my family, and my…).
And there is some merit in giving what one wants to receive. Too often, though, I would look up and find that I no longer knew what it was that I wanted.
It is still easy to slip into this totally self-imposed condition that spreads like a head cold to the chest; pervasive and debilitating. I call it “dodging and darting” when I make it my job to perceive and predict others’ desires and attempt to move in concert with them.
With my husband I may become hyper-aware of every nuance of facial expression, gesture and posture. Does he like the food I served? Does he mind watching the movie I chose? Does he want to sit by me on the couch or would he be more comfortable in the separate chair?
When I was my granddaughter’s age I took this poison every time I was with a boyfriend or even my girlfriends. I easily worried about how I should sit, what I should wear, whether my laugh was too loud or my teeth too big. Could I be interesting and fun? In those days it was more of an adolescent thing.
At any age the worries are benign. It’s the mental state that both causes and exacerbates such behavior that is troublesome. It’s my lack of ability to be myself and still feel lovable. Sadly, I recognize my arrested development when I revisit this place.
In this mode my moods move with my perceptions. Rarely, do I feel loved and cherished. According to the responses I get to my machinations, I’m more likely to feel trapped and unappreciated. My shoulders get tight and I am constantly irritated or even angry. Then I look inward and know that I have left behind the person who added value to my relationships. I have become a needy whisper of my loving and happy self.
Perhaps I will never become immune. I am afflicted less often only because I recognize the symptom much earlier. A slight discomfort usually brings me back to myself where I will abide in a place of joy and comfort until the next time I begin to slip-slide away.
And to my granddaughter? Look at yourself. Listen to yourself. Live comfortably in your own skin and know that you are worthy of love and friendship without changing. Never sacrifice your fine self. Hold on!