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I want to stop being so afraid of confrontation. HELP PLEASE!

(27 Posts)
MrsMcEnroe Fri 31-Jan-14 15:48:55

I am a full-on people-pleaser. I care (a lot) what people think about me; if someone says anything even vaguely negative about me I feel absolutely crushed. I have been known to brood on perceived "rejection" for days, unable to sleep due to worrying about it, etc. Earlier I was chatting on a Facebook selling group that I belong to (well, I DID belong to - I left the group in shame!!) and someone who lives in another CONTINENT, whom I don't know in RL and whose opinion should not matter to me at all, made a totally unreasonable, snarky comment to me and I started shaking and my heart started beating faster ..... I'm pathetic aren't I?!

I have also name changed and de-reg'd on MN more than once due to getting into very very minor scraps with people on AIBU - I mean, it's the Internet, it doesn't matter, right?!

So. I think I know why I'm like this. I think it's because I was adopted and was terrified of being rejected by my adoptive parents - I never felt as though I fully belonged in my adoptive family if I'm honest. I was a very, very compliant child and teenager because I was terrified of upsetting my mum - I know now that it's because I was afraid that she would "give me back" although logically there was nowhere to give me back TO, but apparently this is a common fear amongst adoptees.

But what can I DO about it? I'm 41 years old FFS. I need to toughen up. Advice please? And if anyone posts "oh just toughen up you pathetic loser" or similar I WILL probably cry! wink

ziggiestardust Fri 31-Jan-14 17:51:29

I think everyone cares to some extent, don't they? People say they don't, but they do really!

MrsMcEnroe Fri 31-Jan-14 17:49:33

Hhhmmm I am both glad and sorry that I'm not the only one with this propensity! There is so much to think about here, and thank you all for your replies! thanks

I don't suffer from depression thank goodness, so I can't try citalopram. However I have suffered badly from anxiety in the past, hence the CBT/hypnotherapy, so it makes sense that there's a link between that and my desire to please ....

Interestingly the woman who had a go at me online earlier has since come back and apologised!!!!!!!!!!!! So yes, often it is a case of all those other feckers being at fault, rather than me! grin

I'm not bothered if people don't like my taste in clothes/music etc, it's more of a personality and skills thing. So if they say something negative about - for example - my ability to read a document correctly, or if they say that I've said xyz when I haven't, that is when I feel threatened iykwim.

wodalingpengwin Fri 31-Jan-14 17:16:46

I know what you mean OP, I would also say I was very sensitive to slights and confrontation and I know how hard it is going through life like this, though I have definitely got better with age.

I might guess though that you're empathetic and make a good friend because you're good at putting yourself in other people's shoes and don't like to upset people if you can help it.

I personally believe that this sort of sensitivity is biologically based, though that doesn't mean there can't be environmental triggers as well. I once had to take some medication for a physical problem. I couldn't continue with it because it made me feel so drowsy and slow but my goodness, nothing fazed me, I would just shrug my shoulders and move on. It was like living in a 'non-sensitive' person's body for a week. Bloody marvellous.

My dad encourages me to view confrontations with a sense of humour, and turn them into an anecdote to laugh over. This works for me a bit, after the initial sting anyway. No other advice I'm afraid but will be reading this thread with interest.

HaveYouHeardOfGoogle Fri 31-Jan-14 17:05:29

Sorry smile

Struggling90 Fri 31-Jan-14 17:02:13

I too hate confrontation but I will pick someone up if they upset/annoy me. My heart is usually in my mouth and my armpits sweating like mad!! The person cannot see that I am a nervous wreck only I know.

I was bullied at secondary school and very rarely stuck up for myself too bloody petrified of the popular girls. To this day I dislike unecessary attention/people putting me on the spot/laughing at me. I have learnt not to take myself so seriously.

RaptorInaPorkPieHat Fri 31-Jan-14 17:02:04

I'm a bit of a people pleaser OP, I'm better these days but I still have my moments.

I had some CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) a few years back (for panic attacks/anxiety) and it made a difference.... I have trouble saying 'No' to people but hate asking for help myself.

I got a couple of books out of the library at the time, might be worth a look.

I've been tempted to try CBT therapy but I haven't booked any yet.

I struggle with this but I suspect my father helped shape me this way and bullying at School.

I've found this book quite helpful, if you haven't read it:

diamondlizard Fri 31-Jan-14 16:54:24

Lurks for ideas

I feel you op

bobblypop Fri 31-Jan-14 16:52:36

Drquin I would totally lie about the things I liked in order to "please" another person. I would DREAD someone asking me what sort of music I liked for example for fear of giving the WRONG answer. My head knows it is nonsensical but I still react like this all the time sad

bobblypop Fri 31-Jan-14 16:50:10

I am exactly the same. I wasnt adopted but my parents often made me feel rubbish/rejected/that I wasnt good enough so I basically grew up suppressing all my feelings and walking on eggshells trying to be "good enough" Would love to be more assertive. I often et people walk all over me sad

Drquin Fri 31-Jan-14 16:44:47

Ok, I can't pretend to help on the adoption side of things, so won't go there.

But in general, does it help to section people off - in a sense of, there's some people / situations where it's obvious from the outset there might be a difference of a opinion? And it's just life that we have different opinions, so there's nothing more to read into it.
Simplistically, I prefer white wine and I don't like Bacardi ..... If you say you prefer red, or love Bacardi ..... That's ok, it's perfectly reasonable that'll you have a different opinion / taste / preference, so don't pretend you only like vodka just to please me smile

Same goes for a load of "meaningless" stuff we could mention - clothes / fashion / music / tv programmes etc
Can you get to a point where you're ok with that? Then work on the idea that it's still ok to think differently / have a different opinion on some of the bigger things in life, but it doesn't have to be the end of the world? Kind of a list in your head where you know it's rational to have a different opinion, and that's fine, just leave it at "agree to disagree"?

And at the risk of alienating all the other weirdy Internet folks out there - there's a lot of the time when it's their fault for any misunderstanding! There's so many writing styles, poorly expressed opinions, even ignorance (heaven forbid!) that actually you're probably "right" and if anyone needs to be people-pleasing its "them".

sisterofmercy Fri 31-Jan-14 16:30:23

--retained retrained

MrsKent Fri 31-Jan-14 16:28:58

Increasing confidence, managing our anxiety and learning how to deal with confrontation and negative emotions is a skill and can be learned. The first step is being aware of our strengths and weaknesses and sounds like you have done that. You need very small goals to work towards, and possibly some help (a counsellor? ) to work towards achieving them. Failure will be part of the journey. Dealing with it will be part of the learning. It is very rewarding and you sound ready for the challenge.

sisterofmercy Fri 31-Jan-14 16:27:47

Don't want to talk about myself much as it's a bit sensitive but I know how you feel to some extent.

One thing you must try to do is stop calling yourself names as there is always someone Out There who could do that for you. Please don't call yourself pathetic. It is not pathetic to react with fear to what you perceive as a threatening situation. It is logical. What is not logical is the level of fear you experience and that response can be retained out of you.

Please praise yourself whenever you spot yourself doing the smallest good thing like having the courage to start a thread on mumsnet, despite fearing negative feedback. That was brave of you. thanks

I also found, like hiddenhome, that when I got treated for depression that I was less hyper-sensitive so it might be that you could look into all the different types of treatment for what ails you such as CBT, counselling, anti-depressants (those used to treat anxiety) or maybe even self-hypnosis.

MrsMcEnroe Fri 31-Jan-14 16:21:08

Oh you lot are ace!

You've made me smile too.

FetchezLaVache - no, my parents didn't do anything deliberately to make me afraid of being rejected, but I was adopted in the early 70s when adopted kids were routinely told how "lucky" they were to have been adopted - leading to a forced feeling of gratitude, and guilt if you didn't feel grateful .... And being told "your birth mother loved you so much that she did what was best for you and gave you away" which of course makes you afraid that the other people who love you will give you away too.... I have only very, very recently acknowledged that this is how I felt. My adoptive parents are dead so I can't bring this up with them ... I've had some help with this on MN actually, and I am trying to read a book about it but it is painful and so I only read bits of it at a time.

Olbasoil grin in empathy with you

Dahlen lots for me to think about there, thank you!! I will go and google have a look on amazon .... I was thinking about contacting my old therapist who is trained in CBT, NLP and clinical hypnotherapy - she is wonderful - but I don't really have the funds at the moment. Maybe I should take back the shoes I bought yesterday and book a session instead (I'm being serious).

I need to do something about all this, because I have cut several people completely out of my life rather than deal with what are, essentially, minor disagreements. I can't do this for another 40-odd years. It's not a nice way to behave!

Olbasoil Fri 31-Jan-14 16:15:34

Now, blood, guts, poo, vomit and general gore I can cope with, but the assertive course was scary! grin

hiddenhome Fri 31-Jan-14 16:14:55

I used to be a people pleaser and was terrified of confrontation.

However, a side effect of my citalopram antidepressant is that it's increased my confidence and ability to be assertive. I now go around being assertive all over the place and it's brill. You really feel that you've found your voice and is very liberating.

I don't know how to suggest you go about doing it, apart from an assertiveness course, but, honestly, it's really great once you get going. People actually listen to me now and back down if they're trying it on once I've told them how I feel/think about something.

I'm no pushover now and care very little what people think of me grin

It's like throwing off lifelong chains that have been weighing you down all your life smile

Dahlen Fri 31-Jan-14 16:10:41

I tried to go on an assertive course once but was to scared to get out of the car!

grin grin grin

Reminds me of one of my friends saying she'd always wanted to be a nurse but didn't like the sight of blood. grin

Dahlen Fri 31-Jan-14 16:09:45

If you want wholescale change where you really are impervious to other people's opinion, you'd probably need to try something like cognitive behavioural therapy, I'm afraid. The sort of reactions you're talking about are deeply ingrained and to some extent you will probably always be the sort of person who avoids confrontation and worries what others think. Don't beat yourself up about it though. While it means that other people might occasionally take advantage, it probably means you're a very likeable and kind person, too.

What you can do is pick some confrontations. Choose some incredibly minor ones where you have a good chance of getting your POV across. You might find it easier to start off in written form, rather than verbal, such as writing a letter of complain about shoddy customer service. A few positive results will raise your confidence and make you more likely to stand up for yourself when you need to.

Another trick you can try is to pick a favourite heroine (RL or fictional) and ask yourself what she would do in a confrontational situation. Then pretend to be that person and try it out. There is a metaphorical armour donned when you are pretending to be someone else because the confrontation from another is directed at the persona you've adopted rather than you specifically IYSWIM.

THere are a number of books on the market about people pleasing. Try looking up a few on amazon.

Good luck. smile

Olbasoil Fri 31-Jan-14 16:07:28

In my head I'm no push over, hard as nails, couldn't give a damn person. In reality I am a big helping of soggy cabbage and rubbish. I tried to go on an assertive course once but was to scared to get out of the car!

MrsMcEnroe Fri 31-Jan-14 16:06:00

Right. I saw HaveYouHeardOfGoogle and instantly assumed that someone was coming onto the thread to berate me for not googling an answer to my question...!!!!! FFS. I am pathetic. <bangs head on desk>

Firstly, I do hope that your parents never gave you any reason to suspect that they would give you back if they had the option to do so. I have a friend whose adoptive parents did say things like this, not infrequently, and she is properly messed up because of it.

Secondly, you know intellectually that it doesn't matter if certain individuals fail to warm to you, or if nutcases on the Internet take exception to something you've posted. I was in my late 20s before I suddenly realised that as I don't like everyone in the world, it doesn't matter if some of them don't like me, but you've already taken that logical step and it hasn't helped.

Perhaps some counselling might help? thanks

HaveYouHeardOfGoogle Fri 31-Jan-14 16:03:11

I'm the same. I spend far too much time thinking about what people think of me. Would love to have a 'who gives a shit' attitude!

MrsMcEnroe Fri 31-Jan-14 16:01:02

Hi lyndie! Yes, that's exactly it, a thick skin is needed. Hopefully we will get some advice soon!

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