In my past life, I spent a lot of time trying to be what everyone needed me to be.
The perfect daughter, the perfect sister, friend, wife, and mother.
I was putting most of my energy into what everyone else needed from me. Pretty much ignoring myself, my own feelings, and my own wants. And let me tell you, it was no way to live.
One night, a few years ago, I was sitting on our gray leather sectional in our living room, with my husband on the opposite side of me. We were relaxing after a long day, watching TV in our nicely furnished, 4-bedroom, 2.5 bath home in the suburbs of Detroit. Our two young girls were happily playing a game together; the dog asleep on a blanket on the floor. Everything looked perfect on the outside. It didn’t feel that way on the inside. Instead of being grateful for everything I had, I found myself thinking, “Why do I feel so empty?”
In that very moment, I realized that I had lost myself along the way to “growing up,” becoming a woman, a wife, and a mother.
I didn’t love myself because I didn’t know who I really was. I had all these titles, and knew what I was “supposed” to be doing, so went through the motions. I couldn’t honestly answer the basic question of “What do you want to do today?” My answer was always the generic, “I’m good with whatever you want.” I said it on auto-pilot to avoid arguing, or worse, being shut down completely. Deep down, I felt small and unimportant. And it was completely my own fault.
I didn’t know what I liked anymore, what I needed, or even what I wanted. All I knew was that I didn’t have it.
Finally, after spending some time reflecting, I realized why I had become this way.
As someone who had been overweight growing up, I had learned that if I was really nice, if I was funny, if I made others happy, they wouldn’t make fun of me. I would constantly self-abandon to protect myself. This is how my cycle of people pleasing began.
I had always thought that my purpose was to serve others and make them happy—to keep the peace. Know what this is folks? Codependency. Gross.
All that time, I had been concerned with everyone’s perception of me. But you know what I found out? People weren’t thinking about me. Like, at all. All those years, I had been trying to be the perfect everything to everyone to make them like me, or even love me when in reality, no one was really concerned with what I was doing or not.
I knew I had to make changes. I had to stop feeling that way. I had to stop apologizing for who I really was, and what I wanted. I had to stop giving F’s about things that didn’t matter, and start giving F’s about things that did. So just like that, I started. It seemed insurmountable at the time. But so did living out the rest of my life not loving myself enough. I had to put myself first. I believed everything else would fall in line.
I lost weight. Fifty-five pounds to be exact. All it took was a little mindful observation to realize that my weight fluctuated based on how I was feeling about myself. I decided this was going to be the last time I went through the self-destructive cycle, and came to feel comfortable in my skin for the first time in who knows how long. I didn’t do this to make other people happy. I did it for me. The fire had been lit.
I started speaking up. Softly at first, then louder and louder. Mostly kind, but sometimes I needed to be a little tougher with my words. People weren’t used to this side of me, so I had to let them know I was serious. I learned to set boundaries.
Then—and unfortunately—I ended my marriage. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I had to. For me, for him, and for our kids. I decided how I wanted our life to look post-divorce and set out to make that a reality. Today, my kids’ dad is one of my best friends and he always will be. We make badass co-parents and I’m so incredibly proud of us.
After working on this new path, I can finally see myself more clearly, and I am able to put my attention in places and on relationships that are important to me. I stopped being so wrapped up in making everyone else happy. But more importantly, I stopped being so wrapped up in what everyone else thought of me.
I stopped giving so many f*cks away. I started saving some for myself. Talk about empowering and freeing!
Side Effects From Giving Less F’s
>> I’m more present with my kids, and am a better mom for it.
>> I take care of myself. Sure, I still eat junk sometimes—but hey, I’m not perfect. I did learn that I love yoga though.
>> I know what I want, need, and deserve in a partner.
>> I found hobbies I like. (Whoa! Who knew?)
>> Fear doesn’t stop me anymore.
>> I started dreaming again.
I. Started. Dreaming again. And I never realized that I had stopped, until I started again. This is where I am now. Dreaming. Creating. Living. Feeling fulfilled. Meeting my own needs. I’m still very much a work in progress, and honestly, I always want to be. I don’t want to be done growing; I don’t want to stop learning, or doing better.
Now, I’m not saying everyone needs to go get divorced and drop a bunch of weight in order to be happy. What I am saying is that we all need to listen to ourselves—that little voice deep down that knows us, knows what we want, and what we need. Tune into it, and listen.
Can you hear it? What does it say? Don’t ignore it one second more, even if it is a little scary.
Take a step in that direction. And then another. And then another.
And for F’s sake, stop apologizing for your wants, your needs, and especially your dreams. Stop giving out f*cks like you have an infinite number to give. You don’t. They are limited. They are precious. They are yours. Hand them out wisely.