This morning, I was supposed to speak at the mom’s bible study at my church. However, my son woke up with a 103* fever, so we had a movie day instead. While I won’t give back those cuddles and snuggles for anything, I was really bummed that I didn’t get to share my story.
The study is going through Lysa TerKeurst’s book The Best Yes. This weeks topic was on people pleasing and the awkward disappointment of saying no. I thought maybe I’d share my story with you today, instead.
A while ago, I was part of a group of women. I was excited to be a part of this group. Our kids were going to be best friends, and these were friendships that I was going to have the rest of my life. Because these were the ladies I belonged with.
At least that’s what I kept telling myself. Especially when it got hard.
It was time consuming – we met several times a week. And when you have a group of ladies – especially if there are any ladies with insecurities – it’s going to get hard, and conflicts will happen. It’s part of our sinful nature.
And, honestly, I probably had enough insecurities for the entire group.
A couple of these women, I really did connect with, bond with, and my life was better for their friendships. But there was one relationship I just couldn’t make work, hard as I tried. I seemed to be always saying the wrong things, doing the wrong things. Nothing I did helped – I still felt very disliked and unwanted. Which made me want to try harder. It’s the people pleasing way! If you try hard enough, long enough, eventually they’ll like you, right??
It got the point that I would be in tears several times a week. I would get nauseous thinking about any part of the group because it always led back to this one relationship – and I was constantly thinking about it. It began to take a toll on my family. I was dwelling so much on this cause of friction, that I wasn’t even really spending time with my family when I was at home. I was consumed.
It was actually my husband who approached me first about maybe deciding to bow out. He saw what it was doing to me. My first response was a hurried, “NO!” I wasn’t going to give up. I could make it work. It was worth it.
But the more I thought about it, prayed about it, the more peace I felt about not being in the group anymore. It was a really hard decision for me, since it affected more than just me. But having this peace, and finally knowing what I should do, only meant that I was setting myself up for confrontation.
Yes, confrontation. To a people pleaser like me, everything feels like confrontation. I used to avoid asking my old apartment manager to change my porch light for months, because to me that felt like confrontation. How in the world was I going to tell 7 women that I no longer wanted to be in their group??
I held it in for several weeks; not saying anything. I sat through several meetings with them, as they planned dates and ideas for future events. My stomach turned the entire time. I wasn’t sure how I was going to face these women, and have them hate me for leaving them.
Finally, several weeks after deciding to leave the group, I decided to start small. Telling on person at a time is surely easier than telling them all, right? So one day, while visiting with one of the ladies I just sort of blurted it out. It was pretty much: “I can’t do this anymore. I’m out.”
Way to go, Barbara. Super tactful. I hated the way I said it, but at least it was out there, no long only bottled inside of me. The first hurdle was done. The next few people I told it became a little easier, each with a similar response: a little schock, but mostly acceptance. They all appreciated that I had to do what was best for my family.
Then I told another woman with whom I’d become good friends. Her response: “I don’t accept your decision.” I know it came from a good place, but it brought up so many fears in me.
Now she’s going to hate me.
She’s going to think I don’t want to be around them.
She’s going to turn the entire group against me.
We aren’t going to be friends anymore.
I’m not going to have any friends after this.
But it was my decision, not hers. I wasn’t changing it.
Once I left, my biggest fear came true. I no longer saw or spoke to the ladies of that group. Part of it was me, I hadn’t sought them out, but neither did they seek me out.
And I was okay!
My family time became so much better. I was focusing on my kids, my marriage. And though I learned that the friendships that I thought were stronger than the circumstance weren’t, the friendships I had outside of the group grew tremendously stronger and better.
So much good has come out of my NO. There’s always a sense of loss, but I cannot deny that it was a place that originally I wanted to be, not where God wanted me to be. I had put my self worth into what these few women thought of me, instead of putting it into who I am as Christ’s daughter, as a wife, as a mom, as a friend.
One of my favorites quotes by Brene Brown:
“When we can let go of what other people think and our own story, we gain access to our worthiness — the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging. When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the part of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing and proving. Our sense of worthiness — that critically important piece that gives us access to love and belonging — lives inside of our story.”
And I don’t think it was coincidence that shortly after all this happened, I read Brene’s words. Or that shortly after that I was searching for a new journal and found one that said ‘You are ALWAYS Enough’ boldly on the front.
When we let God work through our insecurities, because really, that’s all people pleasing is, and with God’s help push through them, we can open ourselves up to so much – love, grace, forgiveness, hope.