Thursday, July 12, 2012

Life Lessons: Pleasing Other People

I emerged from the womb a natural born people pleaser. I have always wanted desperately to be liked. I yearned to be accepted. I lived for compliments and verbal reinforcement. Living like this is very exhausting. It depletes your soul. Think about it: just one negative comment has the power to ruin everything for you. Your self-esteem. Your self worth. Even your sense of self. It's like being held prisoner by the words and thoughts of everyone but yourself.

I lived this way for a long, long time. The fact remains that the world is full of people with opinions--people just love to tell you what to do--and they give their opinions based on their own perspective. It's a dangerous game to give power to someone who does not know what it's like to be you. To let them dictate your life or ruin your perfectly wonderful day with their words. It happens all the time--people with good and bad intentions--projecting their own lives onto yours.

It's not easy to break this character trait, to be honest. You cannot simply wake up one morning and realize that you don't give two shits what anyone thinks anymore. It's a process. It's a game changer, too. For me, it really dawned on me that I wasn't being true to myself anymore. I stopped listening to my own voice and making my own choices because they were right, not because the majority of the people I polled agreed it was the right path.

When there is something "wrong" (a term used very loosely) with you or with your life, people really ramp up their projections. We cannot have children, it's that simple. And everyone I know also seems to know someone who was once there, too. Most of them relaxed or visited some really wonderful doctor or just magically became pregnant. People just love to tell me these stories. I sometimes think they believe telling me about some third cousin twice removed who spent eight months trying to conceive then magically showed up to a family reunion pregnant with triplets will inspire me. Or, make me think that having children is possible for me, too.

And, I sincerely believe most people have good intentions. I also believe, however, that most people struggle with their execution when talking to me about infertility---because it's difficult for people to not project their lives onto mine. I don't sugar coat things. I don't hide how I feel or what my life looks like from anyone. If there is a natural opening in the conversation to talk about it, I do. With anyone, really. Like my insurance agent, for example. We talked for thirty minutes on the phone last week about infertility after it came up in conversation.

I don't owe it to anyone to defend our choices or explain my situation. It's none of their business, really. But I talk about it because it makes me feel better and I do it solely for my own gain. Sometimes, it makes people uncomfortable. Other times, it opens the flood gates and causes people to throw 'advice' and stories at my face area at speeds topping 95 MPH. This is where the magic happens, though.

I've always heard that you cannot begin to grow as a person unless you are willing to be uncomfortable. You have to be willing to take chances or put yourself in situations that scare you because it's the only way you can begin to grow. And talking honestly about infertility and children is that place for me: it's scary and unknown, but I want nothing more than to live there. It's because when I'm there, I realize that I truly don't give two shits what anyone thinks. Seriously. Because it's my life and I love it just the way it is right now. And absolutely no one can convince me otherwise.

From what I gather, the inability to reproduce is quite tragic and terrible from the outside looking in. How awful, people say to me with these sad puppy dog eyes that make me want to punch them. I sometimes wish I could pull those people in for just a moment so they can see what I see--because it's pretty beautiful in here. It's pretty complicated, but it's also pretty wonderful. It's just difficult to understand the clarity that comes with such a swift kick to your pre-planned hopes and dreams.

Does it hurt? Sure, it hurts. But not all the time. In fact, most of the time it doesn't hurt one bit. I suppose that's not really the point here, though. The point is this: sometimes it takes something a bit tragic and slightly awful to make you truly understand that there is only one person in this world you need to please: yourself.

"She'd tell me how she'd handle the backhanded compliment by smiling and pretending she was receiving a genuine compliment all the while ignoring their attempt to be insulting. After all, it's the way an insult is received that makes it an insult. You really can't give offense unless someone takes it."  ― Portia de Rossi, Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

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