Since I was a young girl, I have always been a follower. I moved across the country when I was in 6th grade. Middle school is notoriously difficult, so add being the “new girl” on top of that…not fun. Then throw into the mix that this is also when my father really started drinking heavily. My new best friend that I met in my new school had a VERY strong personality and naturally took the lead. I was happy to stay in her shadow because she was popular and by association, I became popular too. One time when we were in 7th grade, she got mad at me about something and because she wasn’t talking to me, neither did anyone else (she was quite the little queen bee!). I was completely ostracized at school. For the duration of that fight, I was sick…like physically ill- not eating, crying, etc. I remember staying home from school several days in a row and sleeping in my mom’s bed, as she worriedly questioned me about what was going on at school. The next week, when my friend decided she wasn’t mad at me anymore and things went back to normal, I had an instantaneous and complete recovery.
I remained a “follower” for most of my adolescence and into my adult years. Presently, in my late 30s, I still have these tendencies. At the high school where I teach, I am a co-adviser of a club with another teacher, who happens to also be my closest friend. The other day we were selling tickets to an event and reached our minimum goal. I asked her if she wanted to add on an additional day and she said no. So, when the students asked me about it, I told them no, much to their confusion and disappointment. It was only when I was talking to my sister and she asked me why we couldn’t keep selling tickets (the more the merrier, right?) and I told her I wanted to, but my friend said no. My sister and I had a whole conversation about it and it really made me think about how I constantly defer to other people. Even though I thought having another day was a good idea, I ASKED her for her permission and then ACCEPTED her saying no, even though we are supposed to be equals. I told my sister that I think a big reason why I always defer to other people is that I am afraid of them getting angry with me. In fact, THIS is the root of the problem…I used to bend over backwards to make my exhusband happy because I lived in fear of making him mad. The idea of someone being mad at me makes me so upset and anxious that I regress into that 12 year old girl hiding in my mom’s bed.
The irony is that when I was chatting on the phone a day or so later with my friend, I mentioned I thought it might be a good idea to add another day to ticket sales and she immediately said, “Ok! Let’s do it then”. All my worrying, all my biting my tongue, all my anxiety usually turns out to be for naught. If I had just been honest and said this from the beginning, I could have avoided a lot of inner turmoil. In a lot of ways, I am my own worst enemy when it comes to this and I know I need to have more confidence in myself and my decisions. I need to remind myself that I am not the same person I was when I was a teenager, but that I can use those painful memories to realize when I am regressing into that same behavior.