I was driving home the other day when I had an epiphany – I don’t have to live my life for other people.
This isn’t a new thought and it’s certainly not unique. It’s an idea I’ve been exposed to repeatedly but have failed to execute; however, there, on the side of the road as I pulled the mail out of the mailbox, it came to me again and this time I felt it in my bones.
Suddenly, it seemed visceral.
I only have to satisfy myself with my choices.
Of course, that’s still daunting; I’m the worst at making good choices. Still, letting go of the belief that I’m obligated to look after everyone else’s hopes and fears as I struggle myself to navigate through life is a good thing.
This does not mean I plan to turn into an asshole. That’s something I’ve struggled with in the past. Doesn’t not putting everyone else first make me a horrible, selfish person? Shouldn’t I care about what other people want and need?
Of course, I should, but not at the expense of my own needs. Not at the expense of my life. Not at the expense of my sanity. Unfortunately, sacrificing my needs is the way I tend to do it.
I’m the person you want in your corner. Need an ear? The time of day is irrelevant. Need someone to help you with a project or task? I can do that, what I’m doing will be pushed to the side. I tended to bend over spinelessly in response to every request. As to making requests of other people? Yeah, I avoid that in the extreme.
I never understood in my gut that “no” was an acceptable answer.
I’ve heard it said that “no” is a complete sentence. People write treatises saying “no” is acceptable answer across a wide variety of mediums. I read books about living your life for yourself. I read about the importance of having good boundaries.
What you know in your head, however, doesn’t always align with what you believe in your gut; at the end of the day, it’s the feels that run the show. I try to remember that I’m in control of myself and my choices, but I forgot to put that philosophy into action when requests are made. That’s the difference between the head and the heart.
Regularly acquiring information is a good thing. I may not ‘get it’ right away but it’s in there, swimming around my brain, percolating, until one day you’re driving home, and the person behind is tailgating and you’re starting to think maybe you should drive faster to accommodate them, so they don’t get mad at you. Because why would you do what feels right for you. So, you cave to external demands until at last the inside voice shows up in your corner: who cares if they’re mad? What is it to you? Why do you have to change for other people, especially when they’re strangers? They’re literally nothing to you so stop caring and worrying about what they think.
Ding, ding, ding went the bell and the lights came on.
I really don’t have to live my life for other people. I don’t have to do what I don’t want to do. I don’t have to change what I’m doing in order to be accommodating. I don’t have to bite my tongue lest my opinions be contentious. I don’t have to sacrifice myself.
The only person I have to live my life for is me.