As a kid, I learned how pleasing others kept them happy and me safe, but it cost me emotionally. When I got married, I changed my name and address, but I couldn’t embrace my grown-up independence. I was stuck in a cycle of people pleasing followed by resentment or independence followed by guilt. Now, I’m the Mom. I have the power to make rules, but I’m still following everyone else’s, especially on food.
Unhealthy Amounts Of Guilt
Our beautiful son came to us via Russian orphanage. At 13 months old, he weighed only 15 pounds. He was at risk for growth failure, and EVERY time I take him to the doctor, I get a lecture on how he doesn’t weigh enough. I feel guilty about that. But I didn’t cause it.
When he was a baby, I fed him teething biscuits to fatten him up. Today, he eats tablespoons of peanut butter and slices of cheese for snacks. He has lots of nuts and unlimited ice cream, yet he’s still in the 3rd percentile for weight based on his height. I feel guilty about that.
Now that he’s older, my son is finally at a healthy weight but loves cookies, soda, cakes, and ice cream. If I give in and let him eat his weight in sugar, I feel guilty. If I say “No”, I feel like I’m robbing him of comforting childhood memories. You know, visions of sugar plums and all.
Unhealthy Amounts Of Sugar
The American Heart Association (AHA) now recommends children and teens consume less than 6 teaspoons of “added sugars” per day. The brown sugar and cinnamon pop tart I gave my son this morning has 17 grams of added sugar. Since one teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams, he’s one serving of ketchup away from reaching his sugar limit for day. I feel guilty about this. But if I don’t occasionally let him have a treat, I also feel guilty. My old tendency of people pleasing has me trapped. I don’t know who to please.
Trapped By “All Or Nothing” Thinking
What’s really missing here is a sense of balance. I don’t have to only choose to please others or only choose to please myself. In recovery, I learn to do what’s best for me first. Sometimes, my decisions result in a sad or mad child. I have learned to separate my feelings from his, “Just because he’s sad doesn’t mean I’m bad.” I also regularly ask, “How important is it?” Will it really hurt for him to have ice cream once in a while as a treat? No. Recovery lets us celebrate each day, and some days we celebrate with ice cream. Other days, we celebrate by going for a bike ride. As long as I don’t give into people pleasing, I’ve made some progress.