Earlier in life, disappointing others was simply unacceptable. Whether it was my high school or college teammates, my employers, my husband, and later, my sons, I perceived letting others down as a moral defect. It ranked up there with lying and stealing.
I’m not a brain surgeon so the majority of my mistakes were not highly consequential. Never-the-less, burning the rice, botching a play-date, or forgetting a friend’s birthday all resulted in profound shame and brutal self-criticism.
I can’t say with any confidence when or why this warped belief system took over. I’m guessing it had something to do with being highly sensitive and having a critical parent. Looking back on my childhood, my accomplishments hid in the shadow of my mistakes. I thought that if I could only anticipate what everyone needed or wanted from me, then I could avoid disappointing them. One of the many problems with this false construct was that the more I gave, the more people wanted. Over the years, pleasing people brought me affirmation and counterfeit comfort. It became a form of addiction.
Decades of co-dependence, over responsibility, and trying to earn love led to resentment, exhaustion, and finally, serious health issues. My body simply could not tolerate the relentless demands I placed on it or the lack of grace I extended to myself.
I now know that if I’m not regularly disappointing people, my boundaries probably need to be adjusted.
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