the end of people pleasing

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Diana Krall, the honey badger of blues. She gets up there and does her thing , totally not giving a rat’s hiney if you like it or not.

In this post I wrote about a part of me that I was estranged from for many years: my carefree, bold, unconventional, independent, fun-loving, rebellious, flapper girl. Now that she is back in my life with a vengeance, she occasionally raises hell.

This past year as I’ve increasingly embraced this side of me, I’ve been less and less interested in pleasing people. As is to be expected, this has resulted in people becoming.. DUH DUH DUUUH…displeased. When this happened before, I would always rush to fix it, sometimes bending over backwards to make sure someone’s nose didn’t get out of joint. Well, lately noses have been getting out of joint all over town, and guess what? I find that life goes on. In fact, I admit that for a little while I was taking perverse pleasure in displeasing people. I wasn’t going out of my way to do it, but when it happened, I enjoyed the spectacle. I think I’m over that phase now, but I can’t imagine ever being a people pleaser again. It’s exhausting! I have so much more energy now for other things, like doing what pleases me.

Pleasing people is the enemy of loving people. The compulsion behind pleasing people is a lame need to be liked. To really love people powerfully, you have to let go of the need to be liked. You have to stop being nice and start being real. Also, pleasing people makes it difficult to respect and love yourself, an absolute requirement for loving others. Being able to say and do what I like without regard for what others think is liberating, but a much stronger motivator for me personally to stop pleasing is the ability to love more truly and powerfully.

How is it that we become people pleasers? We certainly are not born that way! And I was an especially displeasing infant and young child. We become people pleasers if we think that’s what we need to do to be loved. Or if we internalize limiting beliefs, like that we need to be everyone’s friend or that it’s not ok to dislike people. If we don’t feel free to dislike people, we get upset if someone dislikes us, so we try to please them into liking us. It’s slavery.

I don’t trust people who are universally liked or who try to be universally liked. The people I most admire, respect, and find attractive are those who are brave enough to think, say, and do what they like, even if it’s controversial. People who try to be controversial are a bit tiring, but if controversiality is just a result of people speaking their truth, I think it’s cool.

 

welcome home… bienvenida a casa

IMG_9434My first glimpse of you was as a child of four or five. One day my great-grandmother took out a box and showed me its contents: two coiled braids of fiery-copper hair. “This is what they cut off when one day in the 1920s, my sister and I snuck out of the house and without our parents’ permission, bobbed our hair,” she said. My great-grandmother played piano at the grange hall dances where she also danced the Charleston in her youth. My mother taught me the Charleston when she and other adults were still giant-size to me.

La primera vez que te eché un vistazo, yo era una niña de cuatro o cinco años. Un día mi bisabuela sacó una caja del armario y me enseñó su contenido: dos bucles de trenzas de color cobre. “Esto es lo que nos cortaron a mí y a mi hermana en los años 20 cuando un día nos dio por cortarnos el pelo al estilo de la época sin el permiso de nuestros padres.” Mi bisabuela tocaba el piano en los bailes donde también bailaba el Charleston en su juventud. Mi madre me enseñó a bailar el Charleston aun cuando ella y los demás adultos me parecían gigantes.

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I next saw you at age eight, when a dance teacher moved to our small town in central Maine and started giving lessons. I started class a couple weeks late for some reason. At my first class we did ballet for a while and then all of the other little girls ran to change into their tap shoes. I didn’t have tap shoes yet, but I still remember the feeling of utter fascination, excitement, and longing I felt watching the other girls clack around in those shiny black shoes. I had seen Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movies on Saturday afternoons with my mother and I had never imagined that I would have the opportunity to glide around a room looking fabulous and making beautiful noise with my shoes. I was incapable of thinking about anything else until I had my own pair. I don’t know if I have ever wanted something as much in my life as I wanted those tap shoes. I cried when the dance teacher moved away a year later.

La próxima vez que te vi, tenía ocho años. Una profe de baile se mudó a nuestro pueblo pequeño y empezó a dar clases. Yo empecé un par de clases más tarde. En mi primera clase, primero hicimos ballet y después todas las niñas fueron a ponerse los zapatos de claqué. Yo aún no había comprado los míos pero todavía recuerdo la sensación de fascinación, ilusión, y añoranza que sentí a ver a las otras niñas bailar con aquellos zapatos negros puestos. Ya había visto las películas de Ginger Rogers y Fred Astair los sábados por la tarde con mi madre y jamás me había imaginado que allí estaría yo,  deslizándome por la pista de baile viéndome fabulosa y haciendo ruido bello con mis zapatos. Me obsesioné. Fui incapaz de pensar en otra cosa hasta que tuve mis propios zapatos de claqué. No sé si he llegado a desear algo tanto en mi vida. Lloré y me deprimí un tiempo cuando la profe de baile se mudó un año después y mis clases se acabaron.

Later I saw you in brightly-colored dresses with impossibly long fringe in Singing in the Rain. When it came time for me to go to the prom, I designed a black dress covered completely in fringe and a friend’s mom made it. I was disappointed when I first tried it on and saw myself in the full-length mirror. The girls in Singing in the Rain were showing their beautiful shoulders and the material of their dresses was stretchy with room to dance in. My dress was a constricting black sheath with a fairly high neckline, as required for a Mormon girl. I felt encased and upholstered.

Después te vi en los vestidos de colores brillantes con fleco en la película Singing in the Rain. Cuando llegó prom (la fiesta formal de instituto de los EEUU), diseñé un vestido negro completamente cubierto de flecos que me confeccionó la madre de una amiga. Me sentí desilusionada cuando me lo probé y me vi en el espejo. Las chicas de Singing in the Rain se mostraban los hombros tan hermosos y la tela de sus vestidos tenía elástico que les permitía bailar a gusto. Mi vestido en cambio era una funda estrecha sin escote y con los hombros cubiertos, tal como requería mi religión estricta. Me sentí encerrada y tapizada.

I found you in a book about Hollywood stars of the 20s-40s. My favorite by far Annex - Brooks, Louise (Beggars of Life)_04was Louise Brooks. Louise Brooks looked on the outside how I felt on the inside. She had all of that range between boyish charm and sexy siren. I spent many of my days dressed like a boy and Louise-Brooks-31being mistaken for a boy on my father’s farm. But I didn’t always feel like a boy. When I went home to my bedroom and saw my Jean Harlow poster on the wall, which I had mostly hung there to scandalize my mother, I felt like Jean Harlow. I wanted to wear stiletto heels, silky dresses, furs, and feathers, all with a debouched and devil-may-care attitude.

Te encontré en un libro de estrellas de Hollywood de los años 20-40. Me preferida era Louise Brooks. Louise Brooks se veía por fuera como yo me sentía por dentro. Tenía todo el abanico entre sirena sexy y estilo masculino. Yo pasaba muchos días vestida como un niño en la granja de mi padre, pero no me sentía como un niño. Cuando llegaba a casa y veía en la pared de mi habitación el poster de Jean Harlow que había colgado allí para escandalizar a mi madre, me sentía como Jean Harlow. Quería ponerme los tacones de aguja, vestidos de seda, pieles, y plumas, y todo con un aire de chica disoluta y temeraria.

I found you in music, dance, film, books, and the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, fellow high-spirited Maine girl. I found you driving at 100 mph in my car on a summer night. I found you in my Ecuador adventures at age sixteen. I found you in midnight escapades of high hilarity and daring with my high school friends. I found you in the mirror sometimes in a girl breezily self-confident, free of convention, original, spicy, and fun.

Te encontré en la música, el baile, las películas, los libros. Te encontré en la poesía de Edna St. Vincent Millay, una chica también de Maine y llena de vida. Te encontré conduciendo a 180 km en una noche de verano. Te encontré en mis aventuras en Ecuador cuando tenía dieciséis años. Te encontré en correrías de hilaridad y osadía con mis amigos del instituto. A veces te encontraba en la chica del espejo, una chica segura de sí misma, libre de la convención, original, y divertida.

I got married when I was still a child, and that’s when I lost you. I will tell you how it happened. There had always been this Victorian girl at my shoulder. Victorian-Ladiy-Image-Velvet-GraphicsFairyStern and self-important in her principles and morals, quiet and yet insistent. When I got married she stepped in, in all of her efficiency and righteousness, and took your place. She wagged her finger at you and made you feel judged and out of place. You went far away. I missed you, but the Victorian girl comforted me. She said you were a bad influence and not to be trusted, and that it was for the best. She was not a bad sort. She was a gentle and nurturing mother who loved the bonds of home and family. She felt safe and valued there. She was responsible, self-sacrificing, and dutiful. Her modest dress reflected her modest attitude toward her personal achievements beyond motherhood and wifehood.

Me casé cuando era una niña aún, y fue cuando te perdí. Te contaré como pasó. Siempre había una chica victoriana a mi lado. Seria, rígida, algo pretenciosa en sus principios y moralidad, callada pero insistente. Cuando me casé, ella con toda su eficacia y rectitud, se hizo cargo de mí. Te regañó, te juzgó, y te hizo sentir fuera de lugar. Y tú te fuiste. Te echaba de menos, pero la chica victoriana me consolaba. Me dijo que eras una mala influencia, que no eras de fiar, y que era mejor que te alejaras de mi. La chica victoriana no era una mala tipa. Era una madre tierna y cariñosa que amaba las ataduras de familia y hogar. Se sentía segura y valorada allí. Era responsable, abnegada, y diligente. Su forma de vestir tan modesta simbolizaba su actitud modesta hacia sus hazañas más allá de la maternidad y el hogar.

Things happened. I made choices that frightened and disgusted the Victorian girl. You, my childhood crush, came back into my life to dance with me in the kitchen. I started seeing you at jazz concerts. You re-taught me the Charleston and together we learned to swing. We are all about emphasizing the second and the fourth beat now, you and I. We are never in a hurry, no matter how intense and driving the music may be. That’s how we groove.

Pasaron cosas. Tomé decisiones que asustaron e indignaron a la chica victoriana. Tú volviste a mi vida para bailar conmigo en la cocina. Empecé a verte en los conciertos de jazz. Me volviste a enseñar como bailar el Charleston y juntas aprendimos el Lindy Hop. Para ti y para mí, se trata de acentuar el segundo y cuarto tiempo. No nos apuramos en nada, da igual la intensidad de lo que pase a nuestro alrededor. Así bailamos la vida tú y yo.

kay francis 2For a while Victorian girl hated that you were back. She felt threatened. She talked bad about you and tried to get me to fear you. She threatened to leave if you stayed around. I told her that I don’t want her to leave. We’ve had some good times together and I value her, but I made it clear to her that you are back to stay. She has to accept you.

Por un tiempo, la chica victoriana odiaba que estuvieras de vuelta. Hablaba mal de ti e intentó que yo te tuviera miedo. Me amenazó con irse ella si tú te quedabas. Le dije que no quería que se fuera. Hemos vivido cosas muy importantes juntas y la valoro, pero le dije claramente que tú ya estás para quedarte. Le dije que te tenía que aceptar.

She has to accept you because since you came back, I am whole. I am wild and exuberant and free. I am more in the moment. I’m more at ease. I’m more comfortable in my skin. My world has more color, taste, sound, smell. I’m stronger. Ironically, I’m a better Christian. I like myself better now that you are back, and if there is a God, I think He would like me better now, too.

Te tiene que aceptar porque desde que volviste, soy completa. Soy más salvaje, más llena de vitalidad, más libre. Estoy más en el momento. Estoy más a mis anchas. Mi mundo tiene más color, sabor, sonido, y olor. Soy más fuerte. Y hasta soy mejor cristiana. Me gusto más a mí misma y creo que si hay un dios, yo le gustaría más a él ahora también.

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new moon elegance

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What it is that brings you the deepest joy? What motivates and inspires you? What gives you a sense of rightness and satisfaction? What is essential?

The answers to these questions inevitably indicate something about your values. Your values reflect what you most care about. Your values are not your morals, ethics, or principles, though it could be that you have a value of acting ethically, for example. Living a life in accordance with your values is what brings you fulfillment in life. It may not always feel pleasurable or make you constantly happy like popping a pill, but living your values gives you satisfaction, meaning, and joy.

Yesterday I wrote about my Lady is a Tramp value, which is largely about freedom. The freedom from other people’s expectations and the freedom to fully enjoy life on my own terms without being cool, apologizing, or conforming. When I think of the words “Lady is a Tramp,” all of that immediately comes to mind, but I also feel it in my body, deep inside. In this way I’ve made this little cluster of values tangible. It has much more power and impact than if I just think of the words “freedom” or “unconventionality,” etc.

A leader in my coaching class told us that he calls one of his values the “elegance of the new moon.” For him the image of the new moon represents a certain kind of under-appreciated beauty. Everyone admires the full moon, but no one talks about the new moon with its barely-there sliver of light, promising and hopeful. That really struck me, and I realized that I share that same value. Or at least, the image of the new moon evokes values for me, too. A kind of over-looked beauty that has its quiet, minimalist elegance. A beauty of fresh beginnings that come on gradually and require a careful attention and patience to fully appreciate. Simplicity. “New moon” says all of that to me.

Here are two more of my embodied values:

I value luxury, but not the luxury of a sleek, expensive car or a designer-made dress. I value the luxury of slipping newly-shaven legs between freshly-washed, line-dried sheets. I value the luxury of sitting on my terrace with a book and an herbal tea. A homemade hair mask of honey, egg, and argan oil. A bud vase with a few wild flowers. These several-times-per-day moments of quiet connection with beauty and my senses make life meaningful and lovely.

I value forget-lunch passion. Yesterday I was so wrapped up in my writing that by 3:30 I still hadn’t had lunch. When I’m so interested in what I’m doing that I forget to eat, it must be passion because I love to eat! While exploring my values in coaching class, a fellow student told me, “I can see that passion is the motor of your life.” Passion touches everything that I most care about. I can see it in my relationships when I stay up all night talking with friends. I see it in my appreciation for music and dance. I feel it when I visit museums.

Why does it matter what your values are? Why even think about it? Why not just live your life and let things flow? Just as there are people born with perfect pitch, I’m sure there are people who are born with the ability to live a life in constant and perfect accordance with their values without even thinking of it. However, most of us have to practice to become good at living our values. And in a world where the media constantly bombards us with its values, many of us don’t have our own values clearly defined.

How do you determine what your values are? With the examples I’ve given, I’m sure you’ve already come up with a few of your own. If you dare, ask your friends or family members: What would you say my values are? This exercise could provide useful information about what your values really are, but also ways that you may be acting or spending your time that don’t reflect your true values. Someone could tell you that you seem to value being traditional and conformist, for example, and you are surprised because that’s not at all the idea you have of yourself.

One way to determine your values is to ask yourself what annoys the hell out of you. What is it that just bugs you so bad? What makes you indignant? When I asked myself this, I immediately thought of the lunch program at my children’s school. Buying the school lunch is compulsory. Students are NOT ALLOWED to take their own lunch or go home for lunch. The reason given for this is that the school wants to ensure that the children are getting proper nutrition for their long day of learning. The problem is, the school lunch is dreadful. It’s not made on site. It’s brought in by a catering service and reheated, so the texture is unappealing. My kids will barely touch it, so when they get home from school they are ravenous. We pay A LOT for this stupid school lunch they won’t even eat. The campus and buildings for this school are probably the most expensive and technically cutting-edge in the region, so I was confused as to why they couldn’t provide a proper cafeteria. I found out that the owner of the catering service is the school director’s cousin. Ok, now it all makes sense and it makes me SO FRIGGING MAD. I could not be more indignant, and the covering up of this nepotism with the enraging lie that they are forcing me to pay for this nasty lunch FOR MY CHILDREN’S NUTRITIONAL GOOD… I can not even.

Now I am hopping mad. What values of mine are being offended here? Tell me in the comments. And what are your values? I’m curious!

how to be a tramp and other words to live by

ba819960237b1bc74cedb0644c6d2bd9.850x521x1Isn’t that a great title for a book? I’m making note of it.

I’ve had a few private messages from readers asking more about the Life as a Tramp post from a few days ago, so I’m happy to write more about it. Being a tramp is something I’m passionate about.

First, let’s look again at the Frank Sinatra lyrics that inspired the post.

She gets too hungry for dinner at eight
She likes the theatre and never comes late
She never bothers with people she’d hate
That’s why the lady is a tramp

Doesn’t like crap games with barons or earls
Won’t go to Harlem in ermine and pearls
Won’t dish the dirt with the rest of the girls
That’s why the lady is a tramp

She likes the free fresh wind in her hair,
Life without care
She’s broke and it’s oke
Hates California, it’s cold and it’s damp
That’s why the lady is a tramp

This is such a fun song! I love it. The lady in question is labeled a “tramp” by the popular women of her social tier because she’s unconventional and doesn’t give a rat’s tush what they think of her. This song really resonates with me personally because of an experience I had a few years ago. I was newly separated and looking for new friends. There was this group of women who were initially friendly to me and they seemed cool. Attractive, smart, funny, talented. However, not long after I met them they started giving me the cold shoulder and then I heard from other people that they were gossiping about me. In fact, they were calling me a tramp! I was shocked because I was one of the least trampy people I knew. I asked a friend what to do about it, and he said: “Nothing. Forget about them. They were only friendly with you so that they could probe your weaknesses and bring you down a peg. Your way of being makes them feel threatened.”

With a bit of time I came to see that it was actually a compliment that these accomplished women felt threatened by me. It made me start to wonder if I was maybe cooler than I thought I was! I don’t especially care about being cool, but what I learned from this experience was that I do care about being free to express myself as I am and do what I want to do when I want to do it, just like the lady in the song. I care much more about that than I do friendship and acceptance, and I’ve always been that way.

However, earlier in my life being accepted and liked were more important to me than they are now, so I often felt that my values were in conflict. I would always do my thing, but then when people didn’t like it, I felt bad. The difference now is that I care less what others think, so I live more peacefully. I’m not as likely to put on the veneer of niceness out of fear of someone not liking me. That’s not to say I can’t pull out that card and play it when I want to. I can make polite conversation with people I don’t especially like or have much in common with if I want to. I can conform to norms in certain situations when I deem it ultimately beneficial in serving a specific goal or my life purpose. Maybe for convenience’s sake I want some government official to like me for five minutes, so I’m nice. Etc.

When I want to remind myself that I value being unconventional me, free to do what I want when I want and how I want, free to say what comes to mind, free to let myself shine, I think: This lady is a tramp. Those words are a trigger that instantly focuses me and connects me deeply to all that the song means as well as my past experience, what I want in the moment and moving forward with my life… There is a lot of power in naming your values and making them tangible. I look forward to writing more about that soon!

In the mean time, here are five ways to be a tramp, if you are so inclined:

1. Wear yourself some bold, red lipstick.

2. Take your sweet time. Yesterday I was crossing the street when a car came along too fast. The driver stopped abruptly, honked at me, and gestured rudely. I tossed my hair and smiled winningly at the man. I even waved and tilted my head at him as if he’d just told me I was the most beautiful thing he’d seen all day.

3. Don’t apologize for having your period or for being cranky about it, either.

4. Enjoy your dessert. In fact, enjoy every damn mouthful of whatever you decide to eat. If you’re going to eat it, enjoy it! Don’t beat yourself up about it after. Savor it. Guilt is not going to help you lose weight, ever. Making the conscious choice to thoroughly enjoy your food is the first step to getting yourself into a slender mentality.

5. If there is something you want to say, speak up. Put it out there. Say it with the absolute conviction that you have a right to say it. If you are expressing a doubt or a question, feel entitled to ask and unembarrassed by not knowing. Good grief, if you are asking that means you are trying to remedy your ignorance, a most admirable action! Speak in a voice that is sufficiently loud and clear.

I wish you happy tramping!

life as a tramp

 

She gets too hungry for dinner at eight
She likes the theatre and never comes late
She never bothers with people she’d hate
That’s why the lady is a tramp

Lately people don’t like me. Not everyone of course, just some people. A significant number. They unfriend me on Facebook, horror of horrors. They avoid me, not returning my messages. Or they just give me the stink eye. It used to be that this kind of rejection would upset me. A lot! I wanted everyone to like me. I needed everyone to like me. And because I needed that, I was… nice. I couldn’t help being opinionated, strong-willed, and expressive, but when I saw that being this way was making some people not like me, I would immediately tone it down. I made myself smaller around small people. I retreated. I waffled. I stepped lightly.

Throughout life our values change. I no longer value people liking me. When I left the Mormon church I lost quite a few friends just for that. It was an eye opener. And then when I started simultaneously trying to make new friends and come more fully into who I am, I discovered that not everyone was going to like the unapologetic version of me. I was surprised by how many women didn’t like me, for example, as I became more connected to my sexuality and stronger in that. I suppose it makes biological sense, but are we that primitive, ladies?

Quite recently I’ve decided that not only do I not care if everyone likes me, but it’s probably a good sign if some people don’t. Once I really started to believe that deep down, I changed a lot. I stopped being nice and I started being real. I started being someone I like and admire. I had no idea what an impact that shift would have on my social life. It’s been dramatic. People either feel much more comfortable around me, or much less. There is not a lot of in-between.

And I feel more at home in my own skin than I ever have. I’m in my body, and I’m taking up space. I’m not sorry to be taking up space. This is my space. The other day in a practice coaching session, a man told me that I am earth, sex, heat, and power. I said, Yes! That’s me. You nailed it, buddy.

I don’t see myself giving up this way of being so that everyone will like me again. My friends are deeply important to me and I love them immoderately. However, first I’m my own closest friend. And that friend never tells me to be nice anymore. She tells me to be a tramp.