July 2, 2015

Holy Sh*t: I’m a “Beck & Call” Girl.

Flcikr/xinem: https://www.flickr.com/photos/christinestephens/5952187866/

I am blessed to have friends with finely honed intuitive abilities, whose insight and wisdom serve me when my own sometimes goes offline.

Lorraine Cohen is just such a friend. She and I have known each other for more than two decades.

Today we did a phone session which incorporated guidance from within and from the beyond. Trusting both, I found myself lying back on the comfy futon in my office as she—with laser sharp accuracy—got to the heart of a matter which has been ailing me for much of my life.

Many times, people have made requests for time, energy,  guidance, information, promotion, collaboration, resources, connections, expertise and work—oh, and for free by the way.

Sometimes I want to say no—due to time constraints, personal preferences and because I, like them, am a professional with marketable skills.  As an assertive woman, a therapist and someone who teaches this stuff—what has kept me from uttering those two letters, that truly require no further explanation?

In our conversation, Lorraine pointed out that I have shown the people in my life, that I am their “beck and call girl.”

It was one of those holy sh*t and holy shift moments that had me laughing and snorting simultaneously. I realized that I had indeed been prostituting myself. It’s what I did for love—what I did in exchange for approval, attention and applause.

On an almost daily basis, someone asks me if I will help them out. I am generally glad to do it, if I am able. I was taught by my parents that,“If you can, you should.” 

I’m not sure if they ever actually used those words, but they certainly modeled it. In addition to working and taking care of my sister and me, they were active volunteers in the community. They would also frequently help neighbors, friends and family. This they did into their 80s. They were lauded as wonderful people. I never heard anyone say a bad word about them.

Is that my motivation too? I  wonder what people would think if I said that I couldn’t or wasn’t willing to do what they asked.

Would I be seen as selfish?  Full of myself?  Withholding? A bitch?

The “go-to” person who is on-call 24/7 is one of my personas. She has been with me since childhood. I envision her wearing a set of headphones, sitting in front of an old fashioned switchboard. Her brain looks like a rolodex through which she riffles, to find the information people seek when they call in to the hotline.

I admitted to Lorraine that some of it was my own ego gratification. Is there anyone who doesn’t like feeling indispensable or like she knows stuff? I have to ask myself if it is worth the trade off…

Most people in my life offer reciprocity—a relationship. We’re balanced—of value to each other. It’s not one sided, but there’s generous giving and gracious receiving—flowing.

If I offer resources, that’s a whole other thing. If I am speaking with someone and they cast a wish out into the Universe—if I have ideas, I share them gladly.

Although I don’t provide service simply for kudos, I am not totally altruistic, and I do appreciate hearing the words “thank you.” I was taught to say it when someone did something kind or helpful for me. There have been times when expectation from others supersedes gratitude. No one likes to be taken for granted.

Is there really such a thing as unconditional giving?  Even the most seemingly selfless person gets something in return, whether it is gratification, credibility or the pleasure of seeing someone rise like a phoenix from the ashes. Another downside is, that in giving to the exclusion of receiving, I set up resentments on both ends.

Who wants to feel that they need to rely on someone else all the time? It can actually disempower and cripple the receiver.

I’ve been holding on to a  damaging belief that I only have value in people’s lives based on what I do for them, not simply for who I am.

Lorraine encouraged me to disavow that perception and “re-negotiate the contract” that I’ve created, which made that a condition of certain relationships—even as far back as other lifetimes. She reminded me to wait 24 hours to decide if I want to meet a request, if it is not something that has a deadline, and also to run it through the filter of the reason I am complying. Am I doing it willingly? Or out of ego or obligation?

Am I agreeing to the request wholeheartedly? If my answer is not a hell yes, then it’s gotta be a f*ck no.

There are times when I give myself away, piece by piece. As an emotional contortionist who would bend over backward to please people, I sometimes feel diminished rather than fulfilled.

People pleasing takes its toll, and I have found that it is often too high a price to pay.


Relephant Read:

How to Stop Being a People Pleaser.

Relephant bonus: And when burn-out is inevitable, this is how to get through:


Author: Edie Weinstein

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flcikr/xinem



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