“You go through life doing all the things everyone else wants you to do, and you’ll wake up one day realizing your life’s passed you by and you’ve got a list of stuff you’ve never gotten to do.”
This, truly, has been the story of my life. I’ve allowed others to set the agenda for my time and attention most of my life. I’ve let the expectations and demands of others almost completely control me. Only in the past year, the last few months really, have I begun to do less of what others want of me and more of what I want to do myself. I’m not planning to be 100% selfish and surely I want to do for others even when it’s an inconvenience or sacrifice to myself sometimes. I just want it to be my decision not theirs. I want to be valued enough as a person to be acknowledged as having needs of my own without psychological retaliation. I don’t want every minute of my day and life to be at the whim of others. I have struggled most of my life being uncomfortable saying “no” and not being able to stick to it when challenged. I’ve tended to put myself last most of the time and here I am at almost 57 feeling completely worn out and never having actually lived my own life (but still being called “selfish”). Why have I believed all these years that others should get what they want 100% whereas I should get my way 0% of the time? What I have discovered, since I’ve stopped allowing others to decide what I do with my time, that most of the old relationships in my life have no use for me now since I refuse to place their wants above my needs (and sometimes my wants). The bright side is that now I am associating more with people who respect that I actually have a choice about what I do (or not do) with my own time and they don’t hold it against me at all. They are happy to see me when they see me and they don’t take it personally when I decline an invitation or request. My husband and I have been drawing stronger and stronger boundaries around ourselves and our lives over the past few years. It’s been a painful purging and we have definitely been villainized by many we thought actually cared about us (but they didn’t). It’s been hurtful (I won’t deny it). Now, though, we are slowing forming relationships with people who are emotionally healthy and are supportive of healthy relationships. I am looking forward to the future and feel like many, many weights have been cut off of me. I don’t feel like I have invisible ropes tied all around me with different people pulling me every which way. Also, as I am more comfortable saying “no” and sticking to it (against all attempts at manipulation and coercion), I am finding myself avoiding people less and less because I am feeling stronger in my own ability to take care of myself emotionally. An unintended side effect is that I’m also taking care of my physical health better. I have always neglected my own health (going years between check ups). Now I am seeing my dentist, eye doctor, and primary care doctor exactly as recommended. I am keeping up with the regular health screenings that before I never had time for. The surprise to me is that I really had not valued myself, even my own life, above mere acquaintances before because, why else, would I cancel appointments when they conflicted with another’s need for my time?