Recently at work, someone described me as a “people-pleaser”. Instead of becoming defensive like my coworker expected, I laughed. The truth is that I was a “yes man” and to some extent, I still am. The episode reminded reminded of some advice an old friend gave me which was that if she could teach me to learn (and live by) one word alone, it would be “NO“. I constantly found myself trying to satisfy everyone’s needs but my own, constantly putting others above myself, convinced that to put my own desires first was to be selfish. I now know that I became this person because I wanted people to like me and value me for I did not value myself. I pretended to be “happy to help” when all I wanted to do was toss some very nasty phrases at the people who made annoying requests especially the ones who knew that they really were asking too much.A lot has changed since then. These days I have been described as having a “low tolerance for BS”. I guess as I became more accepting of myself, I started losing the need to make others happy all the time. This is not to say that I have become a “people-displeaser”.
Over ten years ago, I bought a book entitled “Free To Be Me”. It had a light brown cover with a middle-aged woman sitting on a tree stump in the middle of a clearing with what looked like a genuine smile on her face (I examined that smile signs of insincerity and when I couldn’t find any, I concluded that she must be a very good model). It was written by a minister known for his controversial views – at the time I was very much involved with church – and it came highly recommended.
I never read it.
It was the idea of the book and what it promised to deliver that spoke to me. Sometimes I would pick up the book and stare at the cover and imagine having the sort of peace that would shine through me in a smile similar the one the model so convincingly displayed. At that time, I was still deep within my closet, had locked the door tightly and was trying to swallow the key. I couldn’t/wouldn’t admit to myself that I was gay. I was too scared to read it since I didn’t want to read a book that proposed self-acceptance (incidentally that was one of the first chapters). I buried myself in the books that said being gay was a sin and evil. My relationships were suffering and there are some good friends who I pushed away because of my internal struggles and the belief that no one could help me. I regret doing that now because some of them were really amazing people who I miss. Today I have progressed on the journey of knowing and accepting myself and though I wouldn’t say I have self-actualized (from where I stand now, I don’t even know that a summit exists), it’s better than living in a cage of my making. I know the book still lies somewhere in my box of books and things and one of this days I’ll go looking for it. I rarely go to church anymore because I don’t know if I could take one more homophobic message. One of my best friends has categorically stated that he doesn’t believe in God and sometimes I consider if he is right and what that would mean. However, I just can’t accept that this beautiful world we live in came about by chance or without guidance. I also wonder if God is okay with (and accepting of) the person I am becoming. Deep within me, I hope He understands.