Agreeing to help everyone no matter what they ask became my normal mode of operation. But it had a profound effect on my every day life, as you might imagine. It didn’t dawn on me until I was in my mid-40’s how much I was giving up by always saying yes to everyone who wanted my help, whether it was to pick up their dry cleaning, make calls for a meeting or bring hors d’ouvres for a party.
I didn’t have the capacity to set boundaries. I didn’t know how to gracefully decline requests or simply say I was too busy to participate in activities. The results were succumbing to complete exhaustion by my 45 birthday.
It never occured to me I could just say, “no”. I didn’t have to explain it, I didn’t have to offer suggestions to ease my conscience, I could simply say, “sorry”.
No one would have thought twice about it, except for me that is. I was so concerned someone might not like me if I didn’t perform what they wanted of me. It was the most difficult of all habits to break. In fact, it was the only one that took me two years.
I would bite my tongue, fick my wrist, press an index finger nail to the top of my thumb and even try taking a deep breath to stop my intial reaction of accepting any and all requests of my friends.
Of course I had moments of regression and that is why it took a total of two years before I could say “sorry”, “no”, “I’m sorry, I won’t be available.” or whatever was appropriate and not experience gut wrenching stabbing stomach pains.
I realized I was not doing anyone a favor when I took on such challenges, knowing I didn’t have the time to do what they need and I didn’t want to do it anyway.