Disappointing others is one of my biggest shame gremlins. I care way WAY to much about what others’ think, especially people whom I consider friends. Steve tells me I give too many shits, and he’s right. In the past I have been known to NOT do something I wanted, because I was afraid of what my friends or family would think. I would rather disappoint myself then disappoint others. How disappointing. In truth a lot of my self worth is based on others’ approval. Not healthy. I’m working through this fear of disappointment with Steve’s help but the gremlins still rear their ugly heads often.
Case in point I have been trying to work up the gumption to tell my boss our retirement/travel plans for over a month. Honestly there were plenty of opportunities but I would clam up, my face would flush, my heart would race, my stomach would tie in knots, and I would wait until the “next time”. I like my boss a lot. He’s great to work for and he’s become a friend over the past 7 years. In fact he and his wife came to our wedding! The fact that I consider him a friend made it even worse. I KNEW I was going to disappoint him and let him down in the middle of a crazy development time for us, that’s why I had to tell him close to a year in advance, so he could plan. But I kept pushing it off and stressing over it.
This whole thing made me realize something. I’m going to disappoint people, even the people I care about. Its going to happen. I don’t know what others’ are expecting of me so how can I not disappoint them at some future time? However I have no excuse for disappointing myself. Steve and I have spent a long time planning for our future, over a year of almost daily discussion and research. I know this is what I want. I cannot let the disappointment of others, or my fear of that disappointment keep me from living the life we’ve worked so hard for.
So a couple of days ago I finally did it. You can read a bit about the experience here. What I didn’t tell Steve is what I felt like an hour, 2 hours, 3 hours after the discussion. I should have felt relief right? This huge weight was finally lifted off my shoulders. I did feel a bit of relief but I still mostly felt anxious and small. My boss was nothing but supportive (in a shocked way) but yet I imposed the disappointment I had been expecting and was feeling lousy because of it. Thankfully I realized what I was doing. As Brene Brown tells us, recognizing we are in shame is the first step. I stepped back and looked at what I was feeling and then I wrote this article. Writing this article become my route to get out of shame. I am proud of our plans. I am proud of myself for working up the courage to do something I found so hard. I am proud that even though I know I am and will be disappointing people I am sticking to my plans for the future. The shame gremlins have mostly dispersed though I plan to talk through this whole thing with someone I trust once I get out of work to fully banish them.
I hope in sharing this, other reforming perfectionist’s can recognize when their shame gremlins about disappointing others are in full effect. Obviously we don’t want to disappoint the people we care about. But if its comes down to disappointing them, or disappointing myself, they are going to have to deal. Hopefully my self worth will some day not be tied to others opinions or disappointments but for now I will keep a watchful eye for those gremlins and try to give a whole lot less shits.
If you haven’t read Brene Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability I highly recommend it. Her book Rising Strong is bookmarked on my bedside table for nightly reading during this time of high stress. I have learned so much about myself in reading it and her other books. As she says “If we’re brave enough, often enough, we will fall” her book helps me get back up and keep on going!