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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fear of Disappointing Others


One of the biggest issues I continuously have to work through is my fear of disappointing others.  That, coupled with the fear of what other people think of me.  I'm very insecure in this area, and that insecurity wrecked havoc on my spirit when I was in my darkest years of Crisis.

This issue of mine didn't come from a childhood of being made to feel unworthy, or like I was a disappointment.  Quite the contrary.  I had two loving parents who constantly encouraged me, and who constantly expressed how proud they were of me.

Had my adult life taken a different path, I probably wouldn't have developed any insecurities over fear of disappointing.  Instead, I would have simply pursued life with gusto, driven to excel and over achieve, without really knowing why.  Probably, just by thinking that this is how I am wired.  But, rest assured, I would have worked hard to keep my parents proud, as in truth, I was probably a little addicted to the feeling of having their smile upon me.

So, when I made the choices I did in my early adulthood, I had that psychic sense that those closest to me weren't exactly thrilled with my choice in a mate.  Still, they switched into their natural state of support, and they did their best to cheer me on, even though they didn't like seeing the hidden subtleties that were defining me as an adult.  Things like me not pursuing the things I wanted because they were different from what my then-husband wanted.  Or that I pulled away from my family because my husband thought my family was too close.

The amount of shame I felt when my life exploded into ruin 18 years later, was greater than any other response I had.  Even greater than the fear of what would become of the children and me.  I was a 38 year-old mother of four with no way to support myself, no way to establish stability, but yet my greatest concern was that I had become a disappointment to my family.

When I started attending Celebrate Recovery, I heard women introduce themselves with their name and struggles, and for the first time I heard the issue, "fear of what other people think," said out loud as an actual struggle that needed to be addressed in a 12-step program.

I identified with that particular issue, and added it to my list.  "Hi.  My name is Kristi, and I'm struggling with co-dependency, betrayal, anxiety, depression, mental/verbal/emotional/sexual/Spiritual abuse, and fear of what people think."

Through simply eye-balling that subtle, but very powerful issue, I have been able to catch myself behaving, and reacting to situations in my life, according to the view of others.

Sometimes, this is good.  I wouldn't chew with my mouth open, for fear of offending others, right?  And even more, there are many, many times when seeking the wisdom and advice from my closest friends and family is just what I should do.  Sometimes it helps to hear whether my judgment is on track.

But, to move in a direction, or to not move in a direction, because I fear that my choices will be met with disappointment is unhealthy, and a sign of emotional instability.  I have to know who I am, and move forward, accordingly.

Actually, that was the very first exercise I remember being given when I first started going to counseling.  I had to figure out who in the world I was.  Because when I stepped into the counseling office, the only person they saw was a Christian woman, my then-husband's wife, and my kids' mom.  I had no identity outside that.

Now that I have had a good 6 years under my belt of developing who I am, I can't allow myself to stay stuck in an attitude of shame because of any disappointment anyone dear to me might have actually had during the darkest points of my life.  I have to extend myself grace.  Yes, I made some seriously bad mistakes.  Yes, I disappointed the people I love the most.  But, I didn't go into my life, seeking the outcome I ended up with.  I went into it with hope, and high expectations of greatness.  I wanted what was best for my life then, and I want what is best for my life now.  The critical difference is that then, I was grossly misguided, and now, I'm pursuing it with a more healthy me.

Still, that struggle of fearing that I might disappoint others is ever-present, and at times, still an issue.  But, being the healthy me that I am doesn't mean I'm perfect.  It just means I'm aware of how imperfect I am, and I know what to do about it.  I have broken free from the chains that had me bound all my life.  Chains that still get tangled up around my ankles from time to time, but they get my attention, and I kick them away and move on.

I like it better this way.  The chains were heavy.  Without them, I am able to fly, and go where I'm supposed to go, to the places where God has guided me.  After all, it's His approval that I need to seek, right?  And He is always there, smiling.  Because the God I follow is all about that.

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