Tessa Barone's Self Discovery Story


Body-image is a big, big elephant, but the idea of being a people pleaser encapsulates more of our psychological problems. Believe it or not, body-image is the awkward, left, big toe of people pleasing. Who are you trying to look good for? Other people. They’re the ones who tell you how skinny, fit, and beautiful you look whilst you return home to stare into the mirror chasing yet another fantasy. Welcome to the world of the female brain; we’ve all got one.

It wasn’t until my 20s that I recognized that I was a care-taker, a giver, and a lover because for the first 20-something years of my life everyone had described me as the “sweet one” and the “innocent one” of the four sisters in my family. I’m very much still that way but it sounds so much more mature when written as the former rather than the latter. Am I right?

As the youngest of four I had always been expected to ‘go with the flow’ although this wasn’t a verbalized reality. It was just how our lives evolved. I became the hour hand on the clock while my sisters became the minutes and the seconds. Their lives were evolving and changing while I watched in the back seat of the car with a juice box and fruit snacks. For many years I was, very literally, toted around as a spectator, and, in return, I was very spoiled for my quiet cooperation—some sort of twisted operant conditioning.

On top of that, I was raised as a Catholic, one with especially deep guilt for when I do not deliver. “Why are you saying sorry,” is a question I am oftentimes asked when I apologize for minor misbehaviors (can I even call it ‘misbehavior’ as a grown adult?) or things that are not relevant to the moment. Time after time I cannot rightfully explain why I am internally berating myself. My anterior insula, the part of the brain that monitors perception, self-awareness, and emotions, is very much aware of my ‘mindful’ self. This doesn’t mean I’m depressed or having mental issues, it just means I’m more in-touch with my emotional side. Tears of joys often spring from my eyes because I am so #blessed. It’s just the reality that I want to do right by all of the people in my life, and I want them to feel righteously loved.

In the most humble way of saying so, I’ll do more than most people deserve and, for years, the word ‘no’ was stapled to the back of my throat. I could not get it out and yeses spewed out like word vomit. I wasn’t just being unfair to myself but also to the people I was saying yes to. Further, when I say yes to too much, my energy is spread thin. I become vulnerable and dissatisfied when I can’t mentally or physically do it all. I become an energetic hyena ready to pounce and victimize whoever questions my ability to please and fulfill wishes.

It wasn’t until my boss pointed out that if I told her ‘no’, it was her problem, not mine. (Saying ‘yes’ to a flexible work environment is freaking awesome, btw). The desire to please isn’t going to go away. What’s important is to intervene with your own willingness. Saying ‘no’ can assuredly affect behavior and mental health advantageously speaking. When I want to tell people no, I ask myself these questions:

Would I ask the same of them?

If I say no, is it my problem or their problem?

Am I the only person that can help them?

Can I serve him/her in another way?

I am a master of nothing and practicer of everything. I practice being nice to myself. I practice drinking margaritas. I practice being nice to others. I practice being present. I practice discipline. I practice saying no. The list could go on and on and on, but the best thing to practice is making decisions for yourself and not others. It’s not a mastered task; it’s a learning task.