A few words on the art of saying…no. This is something that I have very little mastery in at this point in time. We have all been in situations before where we have said yes to different things simply to make someone else happy, avoid conflict or because you didn’t want to to be a “bother.” This terrible practice is something that happens in our friendships, professions, within our families and unfortunately the tragic truth is it happens quite often in our sex lives.
I was recently forced to say no to someone so that I could prioritize my own needs. This situation was with a friend of mine and it was really one of the most difficult things I have had to do in a while. Not to say that I don’t go through other difficult things, but having to be an inconvenience to others has got to be my worst fear in the world. Many of us have found this habit to be commonplace when you experienced trauma in childhood.
For myself, it has always felt more intuitive to me to reach out and fix other people’s problems before I dealt with my own. When I look back on that and see how it developed I can recognize that part of that habit was my own anxiety making it difficult to look at my own self. The other part is that I am a natural empath and I feel for others to a fault. Because of that slew of issues, when I had to speak to my best friend and tell her that I couldn’t commit to something because it wasn’t in my best interest…I freaked out. I mean the whole thing, sweating, shaking, crying, feelings of nausea, and more. And even after I came clean, I continued to apologize to her afterwards. A slew of psychosomatic symptoms like the ones I experienced are simply not merited for just trying to do what was right for myself. I was not hurting anyone, but I felt like I was. This behavior is something that I have been working on in the last few years of my life, but it is really hard to turn back a habit that existed for over 20 years.
If you struggle with compulsively aiming to please others before yourself, you should read Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. It was suggested to me about a year ago and has really served as a spiritual guide for myself. If you are unfamiliar with codependent behavior, a simple description is when one is compulsive inclined to doing things for others to seek approval and avoid confrontation. Many of us who experience this have had people in our lives who were in need of a lot of support and were abusive if they did not receive what they wanted.
Although memories of abuse might make someone believe that saying no to others so that you can better serve yourself is selfish, in actuality it is simply self-care. When you fail to take care of your heart and your mental health, you will have no energy to offer any support to anyone else. Take care of yourself, no one is going to do it for you.