Friday, April 23, 2010

An Exercise in Understanding Myself

Forgive me if this blog post isn't a clear story with a beginning and end. My sponsor has asked me to do a sort of self-help exercise, and this seems like as good a place to do it as any! Hopefully, whatever comes out of it will be helpful to more than just me.

A brief outline of the situation: I'm a Girl Scout leader. Cookie sales ended about a month ago. One mother decided not to pay the $840 she owes the troop for the cookies she sold. This, as you can imagine, has been an extremely upsetting situation. She claims that she only sold half the products, and that the money for the other half was stolen. However I have it on good authority that she sold everything and was living off the money. I can only conclude that she never intended to pay the troop. That she saw this golden opportunity to make some cash and took it. Now she is trying to shift the blame to me, by claiming that I am a bad leader, that I am teaching the girls inappropriate materials (because we did a couple of sessions on drug and alcohol awareness) etc. Intellectually I know that she is trying to justify her actions to herself and is most likely looking for an excuse to pull her daughter from our troop, so that she can justify not paying for the cookies. Emotionally, I am mad, frustrated, hurt, offended, and disgusted.

I called my sponsor to ask her how to deal with these emotions because they are getting the best of me. I thought AA would say that I need to find a way to forgive her so that I don't continue to hold this resentment. Well I can't see how to forgive this. I thought AA would tell me to look at my part in the situation, but I honestly can't see where I have done anything wrong in this case. I have remained professional, I have kept my opinions to myself, I have not gossiped, I have continued to treat the child, and as hard as it is for me, the mother, with respect and kindness.

Thankfully, my sponsor didn't tell me either of these things. She asked how I have dealt with the business side of things, the stolen money, and I was able to tell her that I have done everything in my power by turning it over to the authorities. So she said that since I've done all I can there, I can allow myself to let that part go. As for the emotional feelings of being under attack, she said I need to examine my feelings. Why am I hurt by this woman's words? Why, when several parents told me that they appreciated and enjoyed my program, do I focus on her criticism? Is there any validity to what she claims? I believe not. So why let it get under my skin?

I believe it all comes down to the fact that I am a people pleaser. I'm sure a lot of it stems from my childhood, when I was criticized constantly by my parents for never doing anything right. I feared the angry words, the punishments that came with doing anything that my parents didn't like (and this could be something as innocent as reading a book, my dad didn't believe in wasting time reading). I came to associate any kind of conflict or difference of opinion as a situation where I would be yelled at. So I stopped standing up for myself. I hid what I wanted to do and pretended that all was fine, all the time. I actually developed an ulcer from all this stress when I was in high school! High school! Not surprisingly, it went away when I went off to college. But I digress. In this situation, I feel those same old feelings of guilt, depression and stress when confronted with conflict. I want everyone to approve of and like everything I do, and I don't want to deal with any situation where disagreements are bound to occur. But keeping all this stuff in makes me feel like shit.

My sponsor says I need to validate my own actions. I bear no guilt today. I am not drinking. I am present for myself, my children, my husband, my employer and my Girl Scouts. I am a good leader and a good role model. Of course, there will still be people that don't like something I do or say, but that is their problem, not mine. I need to let it be their's. By allowing this woman to get to me I am giving her power over me and she does not deserve that. I can't feel bad about this situation anymore. It's not my fault.


  1. Such hard lessons to learn, at any age. I can sympathize w/ the people pleasing aspect so very much, my heart goes out to you and the situation. And that little girl who just wants to participate in girl scouts.
    So glad you have your sponsor and a voice of reason :)

  2. What a tough situation! Wow, I really liked your sponsor's advice. And it's true - you did what you could, and the rest will unfold the way it will.

    I hear a lot that "what other people think of me is none of my business", and I'm just now starting to understand why. Because I'm so sensitive, and I totally focus my energies on the negative - the criticisms, the one person who doesn't like me instead of the 99 people who do. It's exhausting.

    You did everything right. I think you handled it really, really well. Way to go.

    It feels good to go through these things sober, doesn't it? To be able to really KNOW you're doing the right thing?

    It can be hard to break the habit of blaming yourself, but maybe this happened to help you learn how to do it! :)

    Thanks for posting this - it was really inspiring!


  3. Can i share your sponsor? Mine's just as cool, though, so it's okay. I am really glad that you shared. It helps us out here (me, anyway). I also think I tend to live in a world where everyone is a victim or a criminal (helps me justify drinking, of course) so I just can't see a situation for what it is and walk away. This mother sounds very difficult! She'd have me in tears without even trying. But you've done 'the next right thing' and sounds like all you can do is not engage with her. Which is hard.

    I imagine everyone else takes her words with a grain of salt; people who behave as she has usually aren't good at hiding, if they even try. I wish for you that she pulls her daughter out of the troop but I wish for her daughter that she leaves her in -- you'd have to deal with the mother but the daughter may need kindness more than anyone else in the troop!

    Good luck. It sounds like a really difficult situation.

    P.S. I had an ulcer in high school, too. Sucked!