How much time do you spend doing things you hate?
Meeting up with that friend who is an energy vampire, who makes you feel like you need a nap the second you leave? Heading to that work event that you just need to “make an appearance” at? Invited to a friend’s birthday party and feel like you have to go because you go every year?
I know the feeling, because I used to spend the majority of my time doing things I didn't truly want to be doing. Saying yes to everything just because I felt like I had to, or because I didn’t have a good excuse as to why I couldn’t make it. Often we feel that taking time to ourselves, to do nothing and rest, is not considered an acceptable reason to say no.
Why is it that we feel we need an excuse to justify how to spend our OWN precious time? Many of us have been brought up thinking that we have to always accommodate and please others. Perhaps it stems from a fear of not being loved or accepted if we don’t cater to the people in our lives. We have trained people to know that we will always say YES when they ask, and that we will always show up even if it leaves us feeling stressed, anxious and always in a hurry. We have trained them to know that we will over extend ourselves to accommodate them, even if we have to show up as just a shell of a person, tired and feeling like crap! Holidays, birthdays and special events become a given that we have to attend for the people around us, no matter how we are feeling or whether we’re able to show up at our best. How many times have you thought or said, “I have no choice but go to that” or “I just have to make an appearance for a little while”? In our society today, it’s normal to be exhausted and stressed when showing up to spend time with friends and family. We live in a society where exhaustion and overwhelm are the NORM, and yet we continue to pile more and more on to our plate with things that we DON'T EVEN ENJOY DOING! What’s up with that?
Showing up fully
When we drag our butt to these activities and engagements, it’s not only unfair to us, but it’s also unfair to the people that we care about. Who really wants a grumpy-grump sitting in the corner at their birthday party, ready for a nap? Or the person who shows up at their “girls night out” who can’t even hold a conversation because what they really need to be doing is at home relaxing and unwinding? Our time really is precious. It is our most precious commodity, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend another damn minute of my time doing something I don’t enjoy!
What can I do about it?
It’s time to re-train the people in our lives to know that when we ARE able to show up for them, we will show up fully. We will be present, engaged and involved, and we will give them the best of us. To do this, we need to slow down, start saying NO more often, and take time to reset and recharge.
In an ideal world, we would all be able to express a clear, firm NO without needing an excuse and without feeling guilty about it, but for those of us who have been a people-pleaser for most of our lives, this may seem to extreme to start out with. We have been conditioned to feel like we need an excuse to be able to say no to something. It can be especially hard to say NO to close friends and family. We don’t want them to think we are selfish or inconsiderate. Trust me, I get it! So how do we communicate a NO to the people in our lives that we care about?
The trick is to get out AHEAD of the invitation. First, come up with a list of the people in your life who you are always saying “yes” to. This could be people you see often, or people you only see from time to time. Once you have your list, you’re going to approach each one of those people and have a conversation with them to let them know that you’re not going to be saying “yes” as often as you used to, because you’ve realized the importance of taking care of yourself. You can frame it something like this:
“I’ve been reflecting on the last few years and have realized that I’ve been overwhelmed, stressed and exhausted most of the time, so I’m going to start taking better care of myself. I love our time together, but when I’m tired and overextending myself I’m not able to show up for you like I want to. So, moving forward I’m not going to say yes to all of the things I used to. BUT, this means that when I do show up for you, I can be at my best, and give you the time and energy you deserve, instead of showing up as just a shell of a person who really needs down time or rest.”
This approach is simple, effective, and the people who truly love and respect you will understand if you communicate this in a loving way. They want the best FOR you, and they want the best OF you, so if this will help accomplish both of those things, they will be on board! If anybody argues with you, they may not understand the importance of self-care, and that’s okay. Just know that you’re taking the right step to better take care of YOU, and that’s the most important thing you can do!