I was a sensitive child, raised in a loving but highly disciplined family. My wonderful mother, I love her so much. But she is always very adamant about how we must behave in public. Telephone and table manners, language, appearance, behaviors. I must behave like a little lady, no lols, no swear words. If I appeared "bubbly", my mom would tell me that it is not "ladylike". I should show reservation and never appear overly excited. My brother and I were the model children. Everyone asked my mother: how did you manage? They behave so well!
With my personality and family education, I grew up evaluating myself by gauging how I am received by others and seeing myself through others' eyes. I was always very attuned to other people's feelings and a huge part of me always wanted to make things better for them. I was afraid if God forbid someone is not happy with me. I never said no. If someone asks something of me, I want so desperately to give whatever they need to them, even if that means I would end up having nothing. It is most important that I behave in the most selfless manner, because mama said, I am supposed to be a great child, who always shares, always makes people happy, never appears eager and always yields. Let other people have it, show grace and generosity.
This upkeep of "acting like a true lady" who is the embodiment of virtue is so ingrained in me. My tendency of avoiding confrontation made my road to adulthood that much harder. I always wanted to make other people happy. Whoever asked, received. I would work myself to the bones or swallow my anger when other insulted me. Never stood up for myself. I was scared. It was as if I was still 5 years old and I always was on my best on the phone because, what if they complained to my mother that I was not polite on the phone?
My mother loves me and wants only the best for me. She wants me to be a great person who helps people in need, shows kindness and be understanding. I internalized those "expectatations" and turned them into a prison. This book, liberated me.
Another person who suffers from similar "symptoms" as I did, told me about this book. She said: look, you do not have to make other people happy ALL THE TIME. Nothing matters if you are miserable. And you are NOT responsible for other people's happiness.
I picked up this book with much self doubt. I did not realize that there was a "problem" with my being "proper". Co-Dependency is a topic which is prevalent in the treatment of alcoholism and substance abuse. This book dedicates a lot of pages to people who struggle with their relatinoships with significant others who suffer from substance abuse. But it also discuss at length the necessity of expressing and accepting oneselves, the importance of recognizing our own needs, emotionally or physically, not belittling ourselves and our feelings, seeing oneself in his true colors: a imperfect human being who may occassionally act in self-interest. It is not a crime nor is it immoral to want to be happy. So what if you are not nice all the time? So what if you are "a bad person"? So what, if you want the best spot in the parking lot for yourself? It is ok. Being proper and a good person, does not mean self-sacrifice. If you are not happy with how people treat you, you must tell them.
I am still a recovering co-dependent patient. I still suffer from guilt when I know someone wants something from me and I am not giving it. But this book really helped me to see that I am not responsible for other people's happiness. If they are not happy, I don't have to save the day. It is ok, if I just go home and watch TV. I don't have to take the earliest apppointment because someone else does not want to get up early. I don't have to put on a smile when someone is mean to me. I can tell them to fxck off. It is ok.
Thank you Ms. Beattie. My mother gave me life, love and support. You gave me courage.