I was driving home the other day when I remembered something: I don’t have to live my life for other people.
This isn’t a new thought, nor is it unique. It’s a thought that has popped up before – one reads about this truth everywhere – but I’ve avoiding dealing with it. The undealt with, however, returns. The thought came back over and over again: it was waiting for me to feel it in my bones.
The truth is both simple and difficult.
I only have to satisfy myself with my choices.
Removing others from the equation didn’t make choice less daunting: even when it affects only me, I struggle to commit to an option. Letting go of the belief that I’m obligated to look after other people’s hopes and fears as I struggle to navigate through life myself can only help: a smaller load is always better.
This doesn’t mean I’m going to turn into an asshole. It’s a distinction I struggle to grasp. “No” doesn’t make me evil. Doesn’t not putting others first all the time make me selfish? Shouldn’t I care about other people’s wants and needs more than anything else in the world? My brain suggests the “give yourself oxygen first” principle was designed by psychopathic monsters.
Care for other people, but not at the expense of your own needs, at least not all the time. You don’t have to give all of your body, mind, and soul to prove you’re worthy of friendship. I wish I didn’t have a lifetime of doing it.
I’m a good person to have in your corner. Need an ear? Call me. Need help with a project or task? I can do that, and I’ll push to the side whatever I’ve chosen to spend time on. Need cash? I’m broke but what’s a little more debt compared to unasked for martyrdom? I bend over for every request. As for asks of other people? Yeah, I don’t do that.
I’ve heard “no is a complete sentence” countless times. I’ve used it myself on social media as I challenge some hidebound, “blame the victim” horror show of a human commenting on a sexual assault story.
Unfortunately, what you know in your head doesn’t always align with your gut, and at the end of the day, my feels run the show.
I’m in control of myself and my choices. I forget that the principle holds true even when people are making an ask.
Until one day you’re driving home, and the person behind is tailgating, and you’re starting to think you should drive faster to accommodate them so they don’t get mad. Because why would you do what feels right for you and is the actual law when someone else has a different idea? Because caving for everyone has worked well so far.
And the lights came on.
I don’t have to live my life for other people.
I don’t have to do things I don’t want to do.
I don’t have to accommodate everyone all the time.
I don’t have to bite my tongue lest my opinions prove to be contentious.
I don’t have to sacrifice myself on the altar of other.
The only person I need to live my life for is me.
It still feels weird.