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What will people say?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

This is what I was always told when I was growing up. When I was little, I didn't need to wonder because I was told whether or not I was OK, and more often than not I heard about it when I wasn't OK. But the message was clear that others had the power to dictate whether or not I was all right.

My mother is once again in my head telling me what I can and cannot do. I haven't been able to silence her : it's a little harder because she's no longer real. And yes, we had it out several times while she was alive, and I was fine for a long time. For years I didn't even think about what she might think about me, about my life, about my actions. Her illness changed the balance, because I didn't recognize that it was the illness I was interacting with and not my mother. And that last year was rough. Knowing that this was likely the last interactions I might have with her made it all the worse. And I started doubting myself again. And now there's no chance she will ever validate me, so I need to rid myself of my need for outside validation.

I've been doing the same thing at work lately ; in fact at the moment it's worse. For years I felt good about my abilities, about my contributions at work, even without any outside validation. I worked for bosses who seemed incapable of providing any positive feedback, so I had to rely on myself and I did so quite well. But now I can't for the life of me see my value to my employer. I feel that everything that I can do is also easily done by others, and I focus on the things others know that I don't and use that to put myself down. I haven't always felt this way at work, just in the last few years. What precipitated this in the workplace was being laid off . There I was, 55 years old, having worked for the same employer for fifteen years, and having to start all over yet again in a world that favors the young. I found a job right away in the same industry (insurance) but the other side of the fence: I'd always been employed by either an insurance company, or as a risk manager for a corporation, the one buying the insurance. And now I was an insurance broker. They weren't sure how they would use me, and neither was I. But I quickly found myself very useful to them in doing due diligence work, in part because of my analytical skills, in part because of my writing skills.

Fast forward to last year when the economy really started to affect us. We're losing business and the principals are increasingly nervous. And as they feel pressure, you know what rolls downhill. Coworkers are added to my teams, and doubt is expressed about my ability to handle my accounts. And I buy it, and believe that I'm worthless.

What comes to mind is that I fall prey to this need for outside validation when other things in my life are falling apart. And I've had my share over the last five years. First I lost my job although as noted I found another. One child dropped out of high school. My husband quit his job. My other daughter dropped out of college. My husband decided he didn't have any feelings about anything, and wanted out - no more responsibility. I told him to go, and I took care of the divorce. I was left to deal with two daughters who had lost their way, and were having trouble growing up. Maybe I felt the universe was telling me I was worthless, or perhaps I was just too exhausted by life and let it beat me down.

After my mother died I decided I'd had enough. But how to reclaim my life?

Hence my desire to become fierce - I blogged about it earlier in the year. Fierce as in passionate about the desire to feel good about myself, to know that I'm fine, to be free of the fear of what others will say or think, to demand of life what's mine to have. And while this is still a huge shadow over me, I'm making strides.

I pushed back when one of my superiors tried to blame me for the loss of part of an account. I pushed back when a coworker tried to take over one of my accounts. I went to my boss for support in dealing with another coworker - something I couldn't have done if I hadn't felt strong about my value. And just yesterday I noticed how good I felt about my interactions with a client. So I know I can still provide my own validation.

But I'm still very vulnerable. The last five years have depleted my store of strength. How to rebuild?

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Such a totally awesome post. I had a "what will people think" mom too so I can relate. In your rebuilding the only question that matters is what do YOU think? And need, and want.
    4003 days ago
    Excellent that you are so totally tuned in to how you feel, etc. You are all you have in this life is what I've learned. You have the ability to build yourself up or tear you down - you decide and I think you've made that decision. Keep giving yourself pats on the back....You are coming out on top of life!
    4004 days ago
  • DEE797
    Great Blog...YOU ARE FIERCE! Hold your head up and keep moving forward. You've taken on a lot of responsibility lately and are making it work. YOU GO GIRL!
    4005 days ago
    Great insights and wonderful strides toward making necessary adjustments in your approach to all areas of your life! emoticon

    BTW ... when you were questioning your value a few months ago ... that sounds like burn-out to me; I'm glad you're working through it.

    One other thing - I think that the phrase "what will people say" has to be one of the most destructive I've ever heard; it took me years to get past that headset, and sometimes, when my vigilance slips it sneaks back in. t
    That's one that I have to constantly be on guard against.
    4005 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/21/2010 10:54:17 AM
    Awesome blog!

    For quite a while, I attended ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) meetings, which helped a lot in recognizing my codependent reactions to life. That helped a lot in terms of getting my bearings as an adult. Depending on others for confirmation is part of that.

    Growing up under the effects of alcoholism and/or mental illness really colors our lives throughout our adulthood. You are making huge gains. I find that when I make big gains like that, I have a surge of self understanding. Then, when I reach a new stage of life, I have a new knot to unravel. The power is in knowing the knots CAN be unravelled. We are not stuck as adults, as we were in childhood, with the disease of a parent. We are now fully capable to be in charge of who we are. A great deal of strength and freedom can be gained in this knowledge.

    Stay strong!


    4005 days ago
    Wow, re-read your blog you are fierce!
    4005 days ago
  • FITKAT2010
    This blog is the best one I've read on Sparks in months. Kudos! Applause!

    Thank you, you made my day!
    4005 days ago
    I now attend Alanon a 12 step group, it has helped me to rebuild my life and gave me the tools I need to live one day at at time. Look it up online to see if you qualify, its free and open to all.
    4005 days ago
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