It was working really well … until it wasn’t.
I am referring to my years-long habit of bending over backwards for other people, often keeping my own needs in the side-view mirror.
For years I believed that any blessing I received in my life were due to my habit of putting myself, if not last, at least second-to-last.
I had received warnings over the years about this from friends and acquaintances. Years ago, a supervisor at my first “real” job gently suggested that I take an assertiveness training class offered by the company — I did, and at its conclusion I reported that I “did not get it.” Years later, another supervisor referred to me as “good sport Mary Ann” after I agreed to work extra hours once again. Yes, that second one gave me pause. And yet, as you know, old habits die hard.
When my life continued to take a turn toward the hectic despite my goody two shoes approach, I got brave enough to confide my deepest fears to a close friend a few weeks ago.
“I feel like I’m being punished,” I confessed.
“You’re not being punished, you’re being schooled,” she said confidently. “And don’t worry, your kind teacher has good intentions.”
I was too shocked to question her, and her words shook me to the core. At the age of 57, what could I possibly have left to learn? Bwahahahaha, said the universe.
For years I had pushed myself to the limit. I said yes when I really meant no. Instead of ignoring criticism or even gentle correction, I took it as a sign that I really was not as “good” as other people and needed to work on improving. I did not let others know what I needed, figuring that it was a sign of weakness at worst and an imposition on them at best.
The process of turning my thinking around has not been easy. As an example, my mother recently came shuffling out of her bedroom fully dressed and expecting breakfast when I was not even halfway through my first cup of coffee. Good Sport Mary Ann used to put her coffee and newspaper aside, forgoing a half-hour of relaxation and a follow-up shower in order to give Mom what she wanted. Enlightened Mary Ann was honest — she told Mom that she had slept late and needed to get herself together. She sent her shocked mother back to bed (!) with the promise to get her up again in a half hour or so. Surprisingly, everyone survived and the world kept turning.
So it’s official. Good Sport Mary Ann has left the building. Well, at least she is in process of leaving.
Perhaps some people will miss her. I certainly won’t.
Good Sport Mary Ann thought that putting herself last was the brave thing to do. But she was miserably wrong.
Being honest and asking for help when you need it is actually the bravest thing you can do.
Don’t let the door hit you in the you-know-what on your way out, Good Sport Mary Ann.