Other People’s Feelings

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One of the habits I’m trying to break as a people pleaser is protecting other people’s emotions, or what I think their emotions are.  It’s not up to me to manage how people feel.  There has been some scuffle between a couple friends of mine and I’ve repeatedly told them they need to take it up with each other.  I’m trying to maintain a relationship with both of them and that has meant turning down one friend if I already had plans with the other.  Recently I was smack in the middle of the two and one found out the other was hosting an event.  I asked the host what I should tell the other friend and she flat out told me to tell her the truth.  I panicked because I didn’t want to be the one responsible for hurting my other friend.  I told her we were going to the host’s house but I didn’t tell her for what.  Within seconds she heard the full truth from someone else.  It made me look like I had been full on lying.  I flipped out and told my husband I was exhausted looking like the asshole when I’m protecting people and he told me, “Stop doing that!”

A light bulb went off in my head as soon as I heard those words—he’s right.  It would have been so easy to blame the other person for telling the full truth—why wouldn’t you want to protect our friend?!  But the blame fell on me.  I should have told her exactly what was happening.  We are adults and the issue is between the two of them.  To keep it squarely between my two friends, I should have just told the entire story.  Regardless of my intention, what I told her came across as a lie, and I completely understand that.  They always say the truth is easier to remember than a lie (yes, I’m including half-truths, white-lies, and omission) and it’s true. We all know first hand what it feels like to be excluded and I don’t want people to feel that.  Ironically it’s become a compulsion and I feel responsible for not letting anyone feel excluded, even if it’s appropriate or if they’ve excluded me.  The friend I was protecting responded at length that the host would never have been friends with me had their issue not started in the first place. 

Another light bulb.  If someone is that willing to blatantly berate or belittle me when I wasn’t even involved, then how close are we?  What type of friends are we?  Sometimes telling the truth reveals more than we anticipated—like someone’s true intentions or place with you.  That’s fine.  We aren’t responsible FOR people but we may have a responsibility TO people.  The difference is that we aren’t obligated to make people feel a certain way—we don’t need to hedge our emotions or the truth to protect them, we are responsible to tell them the truth.  How they react is up to them.  Sometimes protecting is overstepping and it just makes you look like a jerk even if your intentions were good.  Sometimes the truth is ugly but it puts you right where you need to be.  Anything else keeps you in the middle.  So the moral of this story is just let it all out.  I’m not advocating for intentionally hurting people, but I wouldn’t suggest hurting yourself either for the sake of someone else’s comfort.

I also want to acknowledge the difficulty for people who are trained to always consider others before themselves.  That group in particular seems to struggle with boundaries as well as taking on responsibility for how others are feeling.  The world doesn’t rest on your shoulders, my friends.  We don’t need to be the hero in everyone’s story to make them like us.  We just need to make sure we take responsibility for our own tale, that we hold the pen, and that we do the work that we are meant to.  How others respond to us is far more telling of them than it is of us.  If they put the onus of their feelings on you, that’s unfortunate and that’s a boundary you have to be comfortable setting.  But do not go into any type of relationship with the expectation that your actions result in the happiness or disappointment of someone else.  In the end, the things we do to make other people happy can be skewed if we aren’t careful.  So make sure you take care of you.  The rest will fall into place.

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