The things I did to be liked

I have a really deep wound. 

Some would call it a sister wound, in that it was inflicted when I was very young by someone I believed to be a female ally. And while I knew it was affecting me, I’ve just recently been shown just how this unhealed wound has been sabotaging my relationships.

The incident itself is not very uncommon. Sixth grade, junior high, hanging with my best friend from kindergarten like we’re a girl gang. One morning, I walk to her door so we can skip to the bus stop together – like always. She opens the door, slams it shut, and walks by me as if I’m not there.

And then proceeded not to speak to me for three weeks.

Which, when you’re 12, feels like half of your life.

I felt like I must have messed up. I must have done something to make her so angry – right? Something to deserve the punishment of the cold shoulder. I wrote her long notes of apologies (for what, I wasn’t sure), and spelled out my devotion to our friendship.

She tore them up. 

Eventually, after concerned teachers stepped in and my mom realized the extent of what was happening, she came around. When I asked her what I’d done, she said, “I just got sick of you.”

*   *   *   *

I cried a lot as an infant. I was born with congenital hip dysplasia, which basically means my hip was dislocated and I had to wear a sling for 12 weeks to keep my leg from flopping out of joint. I was uncomfortable. It was hard to sleep. I couldn’t be cuddled properly. 

At night, I cried. My mom’s first instinct was to come to me, but my dad decided I needed to learn to not be so pampered, so he held my mom in bed and they let me cry.

*   *   *   *  

The thing I learned from both of these lessons – the first, pre-verbal, and the second, in those formative years – was that even when I was just being me, I was too much.

Too much for affection, too much for friendship, too much for those I wanted to love me most.

All I wanted was to belong. And so I started doing this thing – so subtly that I didn’t realize I was doing it. I would lay down my boundaries in order to assure affection.

This bit me in the ass when I was a young adult, as I entered into bad relationships and bad marriages. And I did a ton of work on myself to find some semblance of some boundaries and put them up around me. Then I learned my energy medicine tools and that helped a ton, too.

But I was still doing it. Subtly. Mostly with people who I admired and wanted to be friends with. “Sure, you can say that comment that hurts my feelings. Not taking your half the responsibility, let me shoulder that for you. Sure, you can not show up and I’ll forgive you time after time. Sure, you can have zero empathy for me and I’ll still show up for you.”

But then, even I would reach a saturation point, where all the fucks I gave and gave and gave simply ran out, and I’d explode. I’d set a boundary. But because I’d like, NEVER really done that before, it felt like a game changer. It hurt. It disappointed and angered those I’ve been boundary-less with. 

And it destroyed those relationships.

*   *   *   *

I’ve been away for a few weeks, sitting in the mess of failed friendships and other relationships. Trying to figure out how to say no and deal with the anger and hurt it creates. Sitting with the remorse that comes from realizing I participated in ruining really good things. Learning. 

That’s why I’ve not been on the social media, or shouting at you in my magical sarcastic voice, or designing the NEXT BIG THING. I’ve been reflecting, and learning, and introverting (hard. I can introvert HARD).

I’m back now. I can’t hide for very long. Like, literally – my two-year-old will find me. 

But I wanted to share this story with you because I think it is a common one for us highly sensitive people. When we don’t know who we are, and we don’t know what we want, and we’re looking for others to give us a sense of self-worth, then we don’t have good boundaries. And that can bite us in the bum-bum, as said two-year-old would say.

So don’t do what I did – okay?

Also, don’t do the opposite – put up walls to keep people out. That, too, will bite you in the bum-bum.

As I sit here in the aftermath of this new, painful realization, I’m noticing the paradox of how empowerment can come with vulnerability.

Because as I face myself and my life, I actually feel empowered. And a bit excited. To see what comes next, to try on my new boundaries and my new sense of knowing and see what happens. If I had pulled in good relationships before, how amazing will they be now?

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