How much time do you spend talking on the telephone to someone you would rather not be talking to? How often do you visit with people that you really do not like spending time with?
My clients frequently comment about how little time they have to themselves, and bemoan the fact that they have many obligations to others. This is a typical complaint in our society, because we have been trained to care what others think. We worry that others may speak badly of us if we do not behave as they would like us to. However, constantly responding to others when our own needs go unfulfilled may attribute to poor self-esteem , depression , anxiety , irritability and resentment.
Certainly responding to others in our lives is a positive value, but consider how things have changed over the years. In the old days, it was not uncommon for neighboring farm families to lend a hand to one another. Perhaps occasionally you would help out at the church too. Now, you must contend with your parents, your in-laws, the soccer team, the skating association, the parent/teacher group, the cubs or brownies, the sorority, the community league, fundraising for various causes and perhaps sitting on a board or two. (I forgot to mention the full-time work commitment and maybe some overtime.)
Your most effective survival skill may be the ability to effectively use the word, “NO.” The ability to say “ yes” only when we truly mean it is the flip side of this skill. Your time is a precious commodity, and you must allocate it carefully. Even if time is not the issue for you, it is still important to stop making yourself do things that you do not want to be doing.
If someone calls for an hour-long chat when you are busy, simply tell him or her you only have a few minutes. If someone makes repeated demands on your time, it is better to tell them that you are not going to have as much time for them as they would like, than to hold simmering resentment.
If friends or relatives act as though you owe it to them to be there when they want you, it is time to take yourself back. No one owns another human being. Parents definitely have the right to set guidelines and assign jobs to their children. However, that kind of power ends when the children are grown and gone to live on their own.
Friends may naturally choose to support one another, but support cannot be an obligation. No one should be mad at you if you decide to do something that you want, rather than spend time with them. To do so is to invoke guilt, in an attempt to control you.
When this happens you are no longer free to be yourself in the relationship, and the joy and spontaneity are gone. Further, when you respond out of guilt and duty, you begin to lose touch with your own feelings.
Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.
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