You Can’t People-Please Your Way to Your Own Life

BY NIC

My parents raised me to be a “nice girl.” That meant different things throughout my childhood, starting with keeping myself clean.  Later, it evolved to a focus on being pretty, getting good grades, and not talking back to anyone.  My parents had left the Midwest to come to Los Angeles in the late 1960s; they had wanted to escape the strict religious constraints of their own upbringing.  All they did, it turned out, was impose the same constraints on me – just without all the religious talk.  They raised me not to have a voice in my relationships with men.  Though it wasn’t their intention, they raised me seething with resentment.

At some point, as an adult, you have to stop blaming your parents.  They did the best they could, whether it was good enough or not.  I started looking for ways to improve my own ability to communicate and to break out of my good-girl programming.  I found out about OM when I was in a tough spot in my relationship, and I was eager to create more intimacy and connection with my boyfriend. I didn’t want to bail on him or stay quietly resentful, so I’d been looking for something we could do together that could bring us closer together.

A good girlfriend had heard about OM and suggested we check it out together.  She said people in OM did something called “intimacy games” designed to build bonds between people.  I loved the idea just from the sound of it.  The event was fun and lively—so much so that I went to the next one they held, eager and giddy to play at a deep level with the other people there. That second time, I noticed the way every person there greeted me and each other. It penetrated the surface, almost like it was a greeting to the soul.  I craved that and wanted more of it. I signed up to get OM trained. 

My boyfriend and I decided to get trained together, since we were working on our intimacy. We showed up to our first OM frazzled and distant, however.  His initial enthusiasm had turned to reluctance, and he was freaked-out at what he thought he would have to do.  Instead of being sensitive towards his anxiety, I was furious with him. I took it as another rejection, and we had a huge fight.  It’s amazing we didn’t bail.  When our fight subsided and we found our way to the training that day, I realized that while I’d been worrying about him, I also was nervous.  This was going to be unlike anything I’d ever done.

In some ways, my focus on my boyfriend’s feelings was the perfect way to show up to my first OM.  If you want to work on your issues, the best way is to have them at the surface, ready to go.  I’d been taking care of other people and trying to soothe them since I was a little girl.  My focus before that first OM was entirely on another person.  I want him to want me.  I want him to crave me.  I want him to want this thing we’re about to do together.  I wasn’t even thinking about what I wanted.

It hit me during the first OM that nothing was going to happen as long as I was thinking about my boyfriend.  OM is huge on consent – you have to ask for what you want.  You have to name what you need, and the other person has to do the same thing.  You can’t guilt or manipulate someone into OMing with you.  The trainers told me I had to ask my boyfriend to OM with me – and it hit me that I needed to check in with my desire first.  Even before I lay down in the nest, I felt confronted by my own inability to name what I wanted.

It felt good.  I could feel the urge to ask him if he was enjoying it, and I let myself notice and then release that urge.  The stroking slowly brought me back into my body.  I started thinking about what I was feeling, and my worries about him receded.  The anxiety didn’t go away after the first OM or the second or the third, but gradually, that panicked attunement to what a man wanted began to recede and be replaced with my own sense of being turned on.

You can’t people-please your way to your own orgasm.  Orgasm was a confrontation to all my good-girl training.  I could fake an orgasm to please a man, but I couldn’t claim my own authentic orgasm for anyone else.  At one point, I heard the noises I was making and I realized I didn’t care if they were the “right noises” to affirm anyone else.  They were my noises because they came from deep inside me.  They weren’t a performance to get praise.   

I learned to give clearer and clearer adjustments.  I realized that’s what my boyfriend wanted and needed, but it’s also what I wanted and deserved.  And of course, once you start making adjustments in an OM, you realize that these translate into the rest of your life.  It hit me that I wasn’t really showing up for the people in my own life. I discounted my own feelings, and shut down my own desires, trying to please others.  They ended up not feeling close to me -- they couldn’t connect to who I really was, because I wasn’t willing to show them.  

Adjustments in the nest make it possible to ask for other things in other contexts.  I found it easier to tell people if they had hurt my feelings, or if I needed something from them.  I realized my silence created distance, worsening the problem I wanted to solve.  The more I spoke up and “gave adjustments” in every aspect of my life, the more intimacy I felt.  I had sought out OM because I wanted to feel closer to my boyfriend and have better sex with him.  I got that, and so much more. I got a relationship with myself, and with the world.