This statement mystifies me. I want to accept it, but I’m not actually sure that I know how.
“The best students get the hardest tests”- Iyanla Vanzant
Ever since I can remember, I have been responsible for myself and the needs of everyone else. I strapped that “S” to my chest long before I understood what it meant. I think that my mother was passing on the raising that my great-grandmother had passed on to her. My great-grandmother was the quintessential matriarch. Her home was the place where everyone flocked and she was the beacon of my mother and her seven siblings. In my world, she was the answer to everything. She knew everything. She had all these ways about her that were self-reliant. Now, that I’m older, I understand that she grew up in the depression and they didn’t have a lot which is why she depended on herself. But, even as a kid, I admired her. We ate fresh fish, seafood and vegetables because that was her way. There is something that gnaws inside me when I don’t do something from scratch or fresh. But, it’s bigger than food.
I believe that I was raised to take care of other people. I was raised to think that my problems are my problems, but they don’t matter as long as I am fixing everything for everyone else. There is a piece of me that is willing to buy it, but there is a piece of me that cries out like Effie in Dreamgirls, “What about what I want? What about me?”. I struggle with balancing the needs of others and my own needs. I feel good seeing people happy and knowing that I made them happy. Alternately, I feel horrible when no one reciprocates with the same things I am giving them. I delight in surprising people with the things that they like or that they need, but I rarely have had anyone surprise me with thoughtful gifts.
It seems like, at times, I suffer from being the strong one. People assume that I don’t need anything because I am the one that is there for everyone else. Or, maybe they resent me for having the answers. I’m never actually sure what the right answer is. I had a friend that told me that he didn’t have to consider my feelings because, “you don’t have emotions.” I was taken aback because I have deep emotions and those that are close to me have seen me emotional. I am actually extremely sensitive which is why my guard is like a stonewall. People that are sensitive are the ones that protect themselves with the biggest reactions. It’s terribly easy to hurt me and most people don’t recognize it. It seems like there is little value placed on people that express their hurt, because so many people are trying not to. If you cry, you are a reminder to everyone else of their own pain. The Superwoman guise protects me from having to hurt. It protects me from being emotionally available. It has become my way to get through things.
Finally, add to the recipe that I am a “people-pleaser” and an overachiever. I have spent so much of my life trapped in trying to be everything for everybody with little thought of myself. Now, I am learning how not to care. It is amazingly hard. I used to think that if I didn’t fix everyone’s problems that something bad would happen. What I have realized is that when I don’t fix everyone else, they fix themselves. Being there for people doesn’t mean taking over. I can be there for them in small ways such as providing information, but I don’t have to rescue anyone except myself. When you constantly save someone, you are only debilitating them. They forget how to take care of themselves. People grow stronger through doing than telling. It is actually the reason why we have free-will, because most of us are not willing to learn without going through something before we believe what has been told to us.
So, it’s hard. I still wear the “S” on my chest most days. I still want to save, but I can’t. As difficult as it is, I can say what I have to say and watch what has to happen for others to learn. People have been doing it to me for years and, now, I am returning the favor. The person that I am starting to wear the “S” for is me. I am a superwoman in my own life. And, now, I believe that anything that happens to me is for my benefit and my lesson. I’m not saying that it’s my first reaction. I have to go through the feeling of failure when I can’t help. After that, I decide that it’s a gift and it gets me through.