Mom: “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.”
We all know it, we all hate it. And there’s a reason those words hit so hard…
It’s because we tend to over worry about other people’s feelings, especially the people we care most about like friends or family members. We innately want to make sure they are happy, and if certain aspects of that happiness are in our control or a reflection of the actions we take, we do everything we can to not disappoint them. The trouble with this is that sometimes it means putting our own happiness or feelings on the back burner.
We don’t necessarily feel the pressure to accommodate other people when we are younger because we don’t really have our own independent lives yet. We tend to do what other people want us to do because, well what else do we really have going on? (especially if we aren’t even old enough to physically drive ourselves anywhere or make our own money).
…and then we grow up.
It’s true, adulthood comes with a lot of obligations. This is, in fact, something we get told before we enter our twenties (insert Leonardo DiCaprio pointing meme)…
…but what I never realized until a few years ago is that some of those “obligations” we aren’t actually obligated to say yes to (PLOT TWIST), especially if doing them takes too much out of ourselves and our own mental or physical health.
It’s called self care, and I feel formally authorized to talk about it since I live with a clinical therapist that literally uses the term fifteen times a day. But for those of you that aren’t licensed by association like me, or can’t simply deduce the meaning on your own, self care is any action you take or activity you do to deliberately take care of your mental, emotional or physical health. It could be something as simple as reading a book, taking a walk, or [my personal favorite] a nice hot bubble bath. Except too many of us fail to practice self care as much as we should. We are consumed with our busy work schedules, reoccuring appointments or never-ending errands that we can’t ever find the time to stop and relax.
Sometimes the best self care in the world is actually just doing absolutely nothing. And in the off chance we have a free day or night to just stay home and do exactly that, we get called upon by someone we care about. And the truth is, we do have plans when they ask, but when someone needs you, you can’t exactly tell them you are busy being alone with your thoughts. So you go. You drive the two hours to attend your cousin’s kid’s last-minute surprise birthday party, and you go shopping with your best friend because they just can’t seem to make fashion decisions alone. And it matters to them and makes them happy, so you feel good about yourself when you get home. But then that one day off you had to yourself you didn’t get to enjoy, and your mind and body sometimes pay the consequence.
The reality is, if we are always looking for things that need to get done, we will find them. And for those of us that categorize cleaning or doing laundry as self-care, you are blessed my friends. But it’s up to the rest of us to shift our priorities sometimes, and put taking care of ourselves much higher on the list.
Here’s what I think is the real issue with these adult “obligations”. We firmly believe there is always a right and a wrong choice. Now of course we should try to put our family and friends first and be there for the moments that matter. We show up when we need to show up because that’s what we should do for the people we love; but sometimes we keep showing up even when we don’t have to, simply because it’s what people now expect of us. You are the person that’s always there, and that’s not typically a bad thing…but who is there for you? When are you there for yourself?
Too often we think choosing ourselves and saying “no” to a pleading request or inconvenient invitation is the wrong thing to do. But here’s the kicker: there is actually no right or wrong in this situation. If you choose to be there for a friend of a friend because you want to, then that’s automatically the right choice. But that doesn’t mean choosing to politely decline if you don’t want to is the wrong thing to do. (YUP, surprise! Both are perfectly acceptable decisions.)
The main thing you need to ask yourself is if putting that person’s needs ahead of your own is going to effect you mentally or physically in the long run? Is it your only day off and your energy will be running on critically low if you do yet another favor for someone else? Then stay home and recharge so your productivity isn’t damaged for when it really counts. But do you have the whole weekend to unwind and could you spare a few hours away from the couch if it will help someone out? Then go, and take comfort in the fact that your couch will still be there waiting for you when you get home. Whatever you decide, just make sure it’s your decision alone, and not influenced by things like guilt, shame or regret. After all, life is way too short for the “I don’t have a choice” mindset, and in the end the only person you can truly count on to choose you, is you.