How a Former Child Star Broke the Cycle of People Pleasing and Found Her Authentic Self
I was born a people pleaser I came out of the womb pleasing. My mom tells a story about when I was 18 months old and had several styles in one of my eyes. She took me to the doctor and he had to use a needle to pop them, one by one. Not only did I cry, I smiled. It’s a very weird indication from early on that I intuitively knew I needed to be happy for everyone. All “negative” emotions needed to stay suppressed.
I was always strongly encouraged to be and do my best. So it became my number one goal to be the perfect child. I adored my mother and wanted her approval and pleasure. Having that connection was the most important thing, it was terrifying to be at odds or lose that strong connection, so I worked very hard to stay on that narrow road of perfection.
I experienced a connection with my mom as long as I did what was expected of me. However, with my dad, it wasn't possible. Having lost his father as a young boy, he had cut off his emotions at an early age. But as a little girl I thought, if I twirl enough, am pretty enough, sweet enough and good enough, maybe he will notice me.
When I was four years old, I was in this nursery rhyme reciting class. At the grand finale, after I recited my rhyme, everyone erupted in applause. I caught my dad’s eye in the back of the room and he was smiling… and I thought, Oh my goodness! I think he likes me. As a four-year-old it all made sense: to get the love and acceptance I wanted, I just needed to perform and not just do what’s expected of me, but more than what’s expected , and do it really big and with a smile.
Although I wasn't born shy, I developed into a shy child because it was a way to protect myself from making mistakes. My shyness allowed me the space to process what I needed to do to remain perfect.
When I was 16, I got the part of Blair on the television show “The Facts of Life.” The character of Blair thought she was a princess and God’s gift to the world. She was nothing like me, but ironically, she was really easy to play. Blair was so confident, and there was a part of me that wanted to be more like her. But I would never allow myself to be like her in real life.
I accepted Christ at the age of 10, and for many years my need to be perfect also spilled over into my relationship with Him. I didn't want to disappoint Him, so I would deny emotions that I thought a good Christian shouldn't feel. I didn't know I could invite Him into my dark places – the places I had sealed off. Eventually, I came to a point where I made a mistake that I couldn't get on top of. I either had to cut away from God so He wouldn't see – or let Him in. That’s when I chose to be all that I am in front of Him and then receive and believe His love. Amazingly, He didn't go away or disconnected from me! In fact He didn't drew even closer, and it finally set me free.
Now, I am able to feel angry, afraid, sad – and know that God created me as human, with all my emotions. I know if I’m going to have an intimate relationship with Him rather than just be a robot, I need to feel what I feel. God’s love for me is based on who I think I should be. And if He can love me, then I can love myself.
The key to being who God created us to be is receiving. Not doing and earning. That’s what I hope to share with the women I minister to now. If we can find the courage to tear down the walls we've built around our hearts, not only will we be able to receive God’s healing love for ourselves, we will finally be free to share His love with others. And isn't that what it’s really all about?