Been there, done that and for the love of God still find myself doing it! In my experience, trying too hard created an optimal breeding ground for resistance <cringe>-more on that in a following post.
I have a long history with trying too hard. It’s probably one of my best qualities, but also my worst. It is part of the people pleasing I do, and although it works in my favor it also bites me in the ass. People like generally like me, I care and like to be helpful. And, I want to be liked. It’s when I’m looking for what I don't give to myself that I get into trouble.
In observing some conversations and interactions I’ve been a part of recently, there is a common thread that binds us all. We are all seeking recognition and validation in some form or another. To feel like we matter, that we make a difference. You know what I’m talking about… We’ve all met that person or have been that person that wants the world to see them for how wonderful, smart or kind they are. It’s natural and very human.
But… there is a very fine line there and it has very much to do with our “why”.
If our identity is dependent on what others think of us, we lose sight of who we really are and get ourselves stuck on the merry go round of people pleasing, self minimization and depreciating behaviors. Hardly qualities that foster respect, towards self or from others.
One of the earliest recollections I have was when I was transitioning into adulthood. I had moved overseas to start a life with my future husband. Still in my formative years, I was very much vested in how people perceived me. So imagine my horror when I was met with staunch disapproval by my future in laws. Their cultural background, coupled with some heavy judgments and expectations did not work in my favor. In simple terms, I was the enemy.
I had up until that point in my life, never been met with such disdain and disapproval. In the mind of a 16 year old girl that was following her heart I couldn’t work it out. I did not understand what I had done that made me so terrible. I didn’t have the wisdom to not take this personally, so instead of carrying on with no regard for their perception of me I began my mission; to convince them to accept me.
They went out of their way to make things difficult for us, creating road blocks and obstacles with the intention getting rid of me so that I would return home to Canada. There were no limits as to how far they would go. Spreading malicious lies all over the small town we lived in, that eventually had me being rejected from the school I had applied to, losing our apartment and involving youth services.
Despite their cruelty towards me during that time, being sworn and spat at in public, by his father and witnessing the rage he had towards me that at one point became dangerously close to becoming physical, had my future husband not intervened, I upped my game tried even harder. I dyed my hair darker, learned their customary obligations and language in an effort to show them I was worthy of their approval. I pulled out all the stops and continued to do this for at least half of my married life.
The harder I tried, the more I was rejected. The desperate energy that comes with trying too hard is often met with the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish. I’ve seen myself repeating this same pattern over the years. I did it in my marriage, my friendships, while hosting dinner parties, in my writing and most recently have caught myself doing this in my teaching.
Patterns like this become deeply ingrained and we revert to them unconsciously, seeking that “pat on the back” from everyone else except for ourselves. It’s part of selling ourselves short.
What I’ve noticed is that once I stopped trying too hard - the tables turned. Once I began to direct my efforts towards an intention of bringing value without an attachment to being validated and approved of, everything changed. I can only describe it as coming from a place of personal power versus self minimization and people really dig that!
How people treat us is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves, if we can’t give ourselves that which we are deserving of, how on earth can you expect others to do the same? The people in our lives are guiding, and yes, sometimes pushing us to stand true in who we are. This isn’t always pretty and can play itself out it what sometimes appears to be cruel and unjust. Consider this for a fleeting moment; could it be that the “assholes” in your life have caused you to break free of your own bullshit? If that’s the case then they aren’t really the shitheads you made them out to be, are they? (Insert a big THANK YOU here)
So friends, if you have found yourself trying too hard to be seen, validated and appreciated from whoever it may be, please extend yourself the courtesy and take a moment to chill out and appreciate yourself. It’s not prideful or arrogant to give yourself some much needed and deserved recognition. If it helps you, make a list of how you bring value to the world; read it, meditate on it, soak it all in!
As always, there is an energy attached to our intentions and someone or something will bring you the lesson you need to bring you back to your true self. Trust me, I know.