In a recent post, I wrote how I’m still struggling to sort out my instinct to serve and submit from my habit to please at the expense of myself.
The word “compliance” popped into my head a few days after I wrote that post, and the light bulbs started to go on.
As a child, compliance could have been my middle name…at least that is how it looked on the outside. On the inside I was the rebellious child. I might look like I was conforming but really I was just trying to get whomever (usually parents) off my back. I didn’t really act out my rebellion in many overt ways, but I created a distance (and to some extent isolation) so that I felt the freedom I wanted to feel.
I got rewarded for my compliance, and I enjoyed the praise. I felt like I’d figured out the magic formula: I could comply and be the good girl and get their positive attention while not really giving in and doing my own thing, even if it was only in my mind.
There was a flaw in my magic formula, though. While I’d figured out how to please them and still not give in, I also felt invisible. I often felt like my parents didn’t get me or understood my point of view. Sometimes I’d get quite angry or sad and stew about how they didn’t understand me (which I’m sure you can only imagine how that was exacerbated by regular teenage angst as I grew). Instead of expressing myself, though, I kept quiet. I’d comply and retreat further in my world.
Without them knowing, I’d do my own thing. I figured what they didn’t know didn’t hurt them, and I could easily show compliance if I needed to. For many years, I thought I’d pulled the wool over their eyes. My mother has told me now as an adult that she knew I’d say one thing to her and do another. I was never really a bad kid, so for her it was a matter of picking her battles. Could she force me to do something if I was being so willful?
I felt such relief when Master first uttered the word submissive to me. For a woman who fights between wanting to be seen and feeling invisible, I felt both seen and heard in a way I’d never felt before. It’s been easy to associate all my past people-pleasing behavior to my submissiveness, but – for the first time – I’m starting to distinguish between how I comply vs. how I submit.