I often find myself feeling overwhelmed. Almost always, after a quick examination, it is because I have over committed to others, with things that I don’t want to do. I understand that normal, healthy adults are able to say ‘No’ to invitations, favors, events, and commitments. It seems that I did not pay extra for that upgrade. I am always agreeing to things, and finding myself regretful and resentful as those calendar items approach. Do you ever find yourself stretched too thin? Let me share a few examples with you, then I will discuss my new found favorite response…”NO”.
I am not a very social person. Even lunch with my sisters sends me into a panic. “Who will be there?” “Will I end up having to pay for everyone?” “What if there is nothing that I can eat?” “What if she brings up that topic that makes me uncomfortable like she always does?” My sisters are the opposite of me. Very easy conversationalists, no worry at all. Lunch is a wonderful way to chat and spend time together to reconnect. I, on the other hand, am full of anxiety the entire time. We have been meeting for lunches on each other’s birthday’s for about 4 years now. Every time my birthday rolls around, I make an excuse that I am busy, and its fine with me if we skip. I’ve never wanted to admit to them that it’s really uncomfortable for me, so an excuse was just easier. This year, however, it was suggested that maybe we should just start planning family get togethers on all of the holidays and rotate houses and hostesses. So, my excuse plan backfired in a huge way. Not only did one sister tell me that I should reconsider because I am missed, and whatever other guilt trip was available at the time, the other sister recommended MORE anxiety filled get togethers!
FULL DISCLOSURE: That’s not really me. But I can totally relate to this young lady. Still. As an adult.
I know what you’re thinking…Yes, this is my family, and I should feel comfortable, right? Well, not all families are like the ones in the movies. I’m not interested in airing out the dirty laundry. Regardless, each family member’s memories and experiences are all different, so there’s no point in even trying. I do my best to get along and be a peace maker, but at my age, I’m a bit tired of that. In fact, as they say, you can’t choose your family. I disagree. I am choosing my family, and I am choosing it carefully. I don’t feel like I have to sacrifice myself for the whims of others anymore, just because we are related. I’m over it.
This whole situation with the get togethers and the lunches could have been averted, had I just been honest from the beginning. “Thank you for thinking of me. Social situations like lunches cause me anxiety, so I would like for this to not be a tradition on my birthday any longer.” I eventually got there. In the mean time, panic ensued.
I was also in a situation recently where we agreed to help a long lost relative out as a favor who wanted to relocate to Arizona. We offered a place to stay until she was able to get on her feet at no charge. We also asked a few people we know to consider her for a job. Once she arrived, she did nothing but disrespect our wishes and acted completely unacceptable. When the jobs didn’t come through for her, she blamed us, and said it was the only reason that she relocated to Arizona. Things got to a point where we asked her to please find somewhere else to stay within 30 days. She did..and stole about $200 worth of things from us. So how could we have avoided this situation? Simply by saying “No” in the first place. As much as we all want to be helpful to others, we truly had no business opening up our home to someone we didn’t even know.
I think that many of us are conditioned to turn the other cheek, or to act in a way that you would like for people to act with you. When we do that, we often find ourselves being taken advantage of by others who’s own moral code likely doesn’t line up with ours. I have come to the conclusion recently that people who are out to take advantage of me, or guilt me into doing things for them are not worried about my feelings, or what is good for me. So, in turn, I will no longer be afraid to say no, or at least ask for my needs to be met in these exchanges.
I know that we are not easy hosts at our house. We are very particular. Dishes should be cleaned immediately. You don’t need to use multiple cups in one day. If you use the dryer, empty the lint trap. Be kind, and at least ACT like you enjoy spending time with us. For us, these situations have forced us into deciding what we are and are not ok with. We are ok with two day max house guests. We are not ok with anything beyond that. We need to be kind to our guests and let them know that staying beyond that will cause resentment and anxiety, so two days is all that we are able to accommodate.
It is up to you to decide what your boundaries are, and then find the kindness to enforce those boundaries. There is almost nothing worse than feeling like you are being held hostage in a situation. It is just better to be open and honest upfront. Doing so will undoubtedly save hard feelings and relationships. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. In most cases, people will respect your honesty and appreciate it. It happens to the best of us. Don’t worry…
You’re probably not crazy!!!