Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.
The formatting may be a little screwy in this post and I can't seem to fix it. My apologies!

I'm a recovering people pleaser. 

I started people-pleasing when I was just a girl. I wasn't one of those kids that complained when an adult asked me to do something. I relished it; a) because I was a very lonely child until my siblings came along and b) because pleasing folks gave me a sense of validation and acceptance that was sorely lacking in my home.

When I met EH, some of that tendency was curbed a bit because, ahem, I now had someone to please full-time. EH never really cared for these tendencies and most of the things I would consider as going above and beyond were largely ignored by him. He just wants to sit on the couch and doesn't understand why I would do more than I needed to.

I almost always took the lead in school projects. not because I thought I was the better person for the job but because I didn't trust anyone else and was terrified of placing my success in someone else's hands. Another vestige of a childhood where nothing was certain. 

At our old church, I volunteered to be secretary of the church board, was one of the leaders of our church choir, spearheaded, planned and hosted the church's fall festival fundraiser, planned the head pastor's wedding. Having just graduated from grad school with no job in sight, and none for an as yet undetermined future, I wasn't involved in anything else hence church was my only outlet for validation. Hindsight truly is 20/20 and I realize now that this flurry of activity was how I coped. I fooled myself into thinking that if I was doing something physically, I was mentally and emotionally OK. Nothing was further from the truth.
I was reeling from losing two babies and teaching pre-schoolers in Sunday School; was stressed to the hilt about our mounting medical bills and spending money for church events; feeling increasingly overwhelmed and depressed and smiling all the time. Soon all of these responsibilities began to chafe.
I woke up super early on Sunday mornings to get to choir rehearsal. We lived in a different part of the city so that involved getting out of bed and taking a 20 minute train ride into the city. When I got there, on time, it would just be me and the choir director. No one else bothered to be on time. Later, I would get up to sing, all the while feeling my anger bubbling up at my fellow choir members for not caring enough to rehearse and losing sight of why I was in church in the first place. Losing sight of God.
I attended three hour weekly board meetings hearing about church financial dysfunction and bad management and feeling anxious about the necessary decisions we were making to get the church back on its feet, which included letting people go.
I volunteered to be a part of a group of people who were assisting a church member who hoarded to clean her apartment knowing full well that that was the one clinical issue that I just couldn't handle. I had dealt with this type of issue in the past and knew that, unless serious therapy was undertaken, nothing was likely to change.
Naturally, I would complain to EH about everything I was doing and he would just shrug his shoulders and say, "Well stop doing it."

I would always reply with the worst kind of indignation, "Stop! How can I stop? What are they going to do without me??!"

It sounded so ridiculous to my ears but I continued doing everything for everybody until I was forced to stop in December 2012 when I had my myomectomy. I truly believe that the only reason I stopped was because I physically could not move around for about six weeks. But those six weeks were life-changing.

I was given the rare opportunity to really look at myself and analyze my actions. I was a grown woman but, inside, I was still a scared little girl looking for favor. I really believed that I needed to be the perfect daughter, the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect woman.

As much as I tried to make it so, Doing was not Being. Nothing I did could change who I was, what I was feeling or what I was going through. I refused to acknowledge that it was just too much for little 'ol me to handle. I was not the invincible, superwoman I believed myself to be. 

So I pared way back; I stopped doing the choir, I quit the Board, I stopped doing the Sunday school, I stopped raising my little hand to volunteer for things. I went to church three Sundays a month instead of four. Imagine my surprise when the world didn't end. In fact, everything went on just as before. These responsibilities didn't need me. I needed them.
All the time that I was giving away was time that I sorely needed. Time to reconnect with my husband and fortify my marriage, time to get our finances together by cutting down on our social outings, time to reconnect with my spirituality, time to grieve our losses, time to seek help, time to get healthy, time to BREATHE.

I know now that I have to guard my heart against overdoing. I worked with a volunteer organization last week which was refreshing. EH and I are only just now venturing back into somewhat of a social life and we are taking baby steps. We've joined a new church and while I still love to sing I'm not rushing to join the choir. I'm not rushing to teach Sunday School or volunteer for any projects. We've joined a time-limited marriage group just so we can get to know some other people because we've started to desire fellowship again. 

Nothing I do now is something I don't truly want to do. 

Do you suffer from overdoing? What changes would you make/have you made in your life to overcome this?


  1. Thank you for writing this post! This was so me! We've actually done a lot of the exact same things. Weird, huh? I was people pleasing my tail off, trying to make everybody happy while feeling like I was drowning inside. My husband, too, used to say why don't you just quit them. I was like, "Well, who's going to do it?" "Somebody has to do it." I thought that needed to be me and I also let people let that be me. But a few years ago, I stepped off. It feels a lot better. I do what I want and am learning that I don't need to do everything. Everything that I am doing is something I want to. No doubt, I'm still tired, but I'm learning how to deal with that too.

  2. I was actually inspired by one on your recent posts! We have bunches and bunches in common! This was a really dark time in my life because I just couldn't stop. I really felt that I would be "letting someone down" if I thought of caring for myself--which is one of the biggest hallmarks of a people-pleaser. I would feel sooo much anxiety when I even considered saying no. For me, overdoing almost always led to some kind of resentment on my part and it was such an ugly emotion. We're doing so much better today simply by being selective about what we do. I think the biggest thing for me was giving up being in a choir but I find that I like singing along from the pew just as well :-)