Being able to say no and feel good about it is a topic I’ve chewed on a fair bit lately. I have such admiration for people who are completely comfortable with making their own needs a priority. Though I have to confess, I have always felt the need to make other people feel good, it’s the uplifter in me, so I struggle with this.
Yet I know deep down that doing things in order to please others is really only satisfying if you feel good in the process. In essence, you cannot help someone feel better by you feeling worse.
Not long ago I listened as someone, who also struggled with this, sought advice. The response really got me thinking, it was a distinction between empathy and compassion. Basically the crux of the advice was to ensure that you feel good at all times, not allow yourself to get sucked into the emotional drama. Do whatever it takes to feel good (even if that means saying no), then you are of most service to yourself and others.
I had once said no to an old friend who died recently and it made me revisit the feelings of guilt I’d had. It had been difficult for me to say no at the time, she was seeking refuge from an unhealthy relationship and was looking for somewhere to stay so she could rebuild her life with her young child. Having her stay would have been the wrong thing for our family, so I offered help in other ways.
While our lives remained separate, our life stages out of synch, we stayed in touch. To my knowledge, she bore no grudge toward me. I could see how important it was for her to etch out a new community, to make a new life for her child, all of which she went on to manage without much of any help from me except a few words of encouragement.
In hindsight, had I allowed myself to get drawn into the emotion of it all at the time, I’m not sure my first daughter would ever have been born; she was pregnancy number five in a long campaign to try and start a family under already stressful circumstances. My friend could not have forecast that illness would end her time here a few short years later, but life works out in ways we can’t predict. While she won’t get to see her child grow up, she has created a safe harbor for her to continue to grow and flourish.
You see, my friend was whole, not broken, as we all are. It was not necessary for me to rush in and save her. She had her own resources and out of difficult circumstances she rose and grew stronger in spirit.
Guilt (or any other negative emotion) is only a feeling that arises when your head is not aligned with your heart, your inner knowing. My conditioning led me to question my motives as being selfish. Yet if you don’t put you first, who will?
Too often we hang our own wellbeing on the actions of others. Even if they can temporarily satisfy us, it is not a permanent solution. Your own wellbeing comes from within; putting your own lifebelt on first is a great analogy to remember when it comes to creating a healthy life.
We cannot control what others think about us, whether we do good deeds or conform to others requests or not. Focusing on how we feel is only true control we have.
Whether it’s the big things in life, as it was for my old friend, or just day to day stuff, the same principle applies. Another close friend of mine was sharing examples of staff she has hired, then gotten drawn into their dramas to her detriment. Being sensitive to others’ feelings, we both have a strong desire to lift them, yet know people can only do this for themselves.
Saying no to others and yes to yourself can be hard, but the consequences are much harder on your own wellbeing as your own experience will no doubt attest. The physical results that show up as a result of compromising our own desires can range from simple headaches to full blow diseases. It is why the number one regret of the dying is living to the beat of another’s drum.
Instead of zeroing in on who others are not, or who you are not, focus on the wholeness of who we all are. Kindness and compassion go hand in hand, they are both best experienced when you can focus on your own wholeness, and let the good feelings flow.
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