The Peacemaking People Pleaser

I always thought axioms like Walk a Mile for Peace and Avoid Conflict at all Cost were good words to live by. Now I understand that as an ACOA, it’s simply my go-to approach to conflict.

Conflict is inevitable. It’s a part of relationships between individuals who live and work together. But ACOAs have a fear of people who are in authority, people who are angry, and we don’t take personal criticism very well. We also tend to misinterpret assertiveness for anger. So we are constantly seeking approval of others; sometimes losing our identities in the process.

I have definitely been guilty of going along to get along and people pleasing. I don’t like the back and forth people go through trying to get their point across or trying to get their own way. Aggressive people do, at times, intimidate me. Although not the alcoholic in the family, growing up, my mother was very aggressive and I could never win an argument with her. She would have a hundred reasons for why I couldn’t do something or go someplace.

I learned only ask for things that I knew fit her specifications. Consequently, I spent a great deal of my youth in a self-imposed isolation in order to please others.

Hi, I’m Liz Hawkins and I’m a recovering Adult Child of an Alcoholic.

#ACoAAwareness

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The manifestation of growing up with an alcoholic parent

For those of you who lived with an alcoholic parent during your childhood and teen years, your life may have been chaotic, emotionally turbulent, and sometimes frightening. But the feelings of anxiety, grief, and instability may not have ended when you left home. These feelings can last well into adult years and manifest in many different ways.

Some common characteristics include:

  • We are chronic people pleasers who constantly seek out approval and affirmation from others.
  • We have problems regulating and achieving balance with our emotions. We are either overly emotional or we shut down our emotions because of the overload.
  • Our fight or flight instincts are amped up. We are hypervigilant about looking for threats or danger in our environment. We tend to over react to any sign of what we feel to be impending danger whether that threat is real or not.
  • We can easily become involved with people who we feel need “saving” as this mimics our relationship with our parent figure. We may choose to live with another alcoholic or someone with an addiction and replay that history out all over again.
  • We are terrified of abandonment. We will cling onto unstable relationships even when they are unhealthy for us because we can’t stand the thought of being left alone.
  • We have great problems with trust. We either trust too much where it is not warranted or we trust too little. We lack the emotional history of understanding how trust works.
  • We may feel guilt and shame as though our parent’s problem was our fault. We may have learned as children to keep secrets and not discuss what was really happening in our family.
  • We may be overly responsible in some circumstances but in other situations we may be deemed as very irresponsible.
  • We may be addicted to drama and excitement in our lives leading to high risk behaviors.
  • We may self-medicate through food, sex, work, spending money, drinking alcohol or doing drugs as a way to deal with our emotional pain.

The key to moving on is not to blame but to be conscious of the role our parents had in shaping our current life choices. It is possible to break the family patterns by coping in healthy ways such as reaching out and gaining support.

#ACoAAwareness

Source: www.healthcentral.com

 

The Perfectionist

Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order.  This is a quote by Anne Wilson Schaef.  For adult children of alcoholics, trying to be perfect and people-pleasers come with weak boundaries.  People who lack health boundaries are often emotionally needy.

Addicted, dysfunctional and chaotic families are a breeding ground for perfectionism.  Therapists and addiction counselors often talk about alcoholism (or any addiction) as a family disease because it affects everyone in the family.  An addict’s behavior has far reaching consequences for the family, especially the children.

I tried to be the perfect child in my family.  Never really bucking back at my parents; always conforming to their will.  My alcoholic father was an embarrassment to me, so I put on my metaphoric mask for outsiders; ensuring none of the cracks in my family foundation showed.  Although my perfectionism seemed to serve me well as a child, it isn’t without its problems.

As an adult I became an overly compliant people-pleaser; trying to make everyone happy all the time.  But in the process, I lost my own identity and the ability to ask for and received what I really need.  My needs always came last.  I’m trying to make a change in my life and put myself first.  This has proven to be difficult because I tend to feel guilty when doing so or feel like I’m being selfish.

My goal is to continue to ask myself what it is I want and act on fulfilling my own needs first.  I’m worth it.  I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

Hi, I’m Liz Hawkins and I’m a recovering Adult Child of an Alcoholic.

#ACoAAwareness

 

The Root of All Things

The root of my people-pleasing tendencies lie with both my alcoholic father and ACOA mother; both of whom I took care of as a child. This caused me to always put others first and to ignore my own wants and needs.

Oliver JR Cooper, author, transformational writer, and coach says that the ego mind will have formed certain associations around taking care of the needs and wants of others. And lead people-pleasers like me to associations being triggered like feeling rejected, abandoned, or being unsafe. Cooper says as long as these associations exist, it will cause one to attract people and situations that reflect the past or interpret the present in the same way.

Now that I am aware of all this, I notice that I have great angst and anxiety when it comes to others wanting and needing something from me that I seek to resist. It’s like my ego mind is trying to pull me back to that old familiar state. I also feel physical pain and mental anguish when trying to resist my people-pleasing tendencies. I feel like I’m being mean or being a bad person. But I must resist if I want to be free and to grow.

Hi, I’m Liz Hawkins and I’m a recovering Adult Child of an Alcoholic.

Keeping up Appearances

Many ACOAs tend to be people-pleasers; we are just too nice. Inevitably we just want to be loved and needed by others but this results in suppressing tons of uncomfortable emotions like bitterness, annoyance, and grief.

I tend to put myself under extreme pressure in order to ‘keep up appearances.’ One of the worst things about constantly being nice is the pressure I put on myself to maintain my self-image. It feels good to constantly be on people’s good sides and avoid negative feelings. But this, dare I say “addiction” comes at a price: chronic stress. Often the stress is invisible, but it’s always there, always demanding that I keep my mask strapped on even though it might be suffocating me.

A wise person recently advised me to take more time for me and less for others. Doing this won’t make me a bad person, and I can finally remove that suffocating mask and breathe.

Hi, I’m Liz Hawkins and I’m a recovering Adult Child of an Alcoholic.