For my dear friends who give, and give, and give…
Sometimes I wonder if I were to look at all of the different things that I do and don’t do in my life, past and present, what percentage of them are because of other people?
When I was younger, my parents sent me to a therapist which is fairly common if you come from divorced parents like I do. I never liked talking to therapists because I didn’t really see what was so helpful about having someone to talk to and who only listened because you paid them to. However, there was one named Dr. Larry, a psychologist, who still sticks out in my mind. I was 19 (not a good year for me) and he asked me why I was trying to study economics when I clearly didn’t even want to be in college, why I didn’t tell people the truth about my opinions and feelings (that one stumped me), and why I did other things I didn’t want to think about or admit to myself. There were a few times I didn’t have an answer for him or quickly tried to come up with a lie, but my main answers were ‘My parents said I had to’ or ‘Because I’m supposed to’. He looked me directly in the eye and said very sternly, “You will never be happy if you continue to live for other people.” There was nothing warm or interpretive about this man; he was cold and scared the hell out of me…but he was right.
Take right now for example, as I’m working on an assignment for a side job I keep thinking to myself “This is not your writing.” I tell myself that I enjoy technical writing but I think just like it because it sounds fancy and it offers decent pay; however, the reason I do these assignments is because my currently job doesn’t pay me enough to live comfortably. I’ve stayed at this job because my parents told me no one else would hire me without 2 years of experience; because I think my boss would lose it if I quit after the more than 5 people who left the company within a month of each other; and because I feel bad trying to leave the city I live in before I told my friends I would.
As I re-read what I just wrote I see that I’m doing it again; those reasons are all because of how I think I’ll impact other people. I do this in other aspects of my life as well; staying with my ex at least a year longer than I should have (because I was afraid he would fall apart without me); going to some sort of social engagement even when I don’t want to (because I don’t want to upset my friends); and keeping my mouth shut in situations where I know I’m right (because I don’t want the other person to be mad at me).
But why? What’s the point of doing things that make you upset, or even miserable, just to appease other people? If you find yourself making other people smile more than you make yourself smile you’re going to have a problem. I love doing things for the people that I care about, but now I realize that if it’s going to effect me negatively then I simply can’t do it. Frankly I’m useless to others when I’m down or burnt out so wouldn’t it make more sense for me to help myself first (if necessary) and then see how I can help someone else?
I love listening to my friends and helping them through their problems, but I’ve learned that if I’m not in a great place myself then I can’t help them at that moment. I simply tell them that I want to help, but I can’t do it right now. Good people understand that.
There will be times when you will have to let down people, disappoint them, and sometimes even hurt them because while you can’t save everyone you can save yourself, even if it hurts at first. I believe that it is imperative to acknowledge your own self, and realize that if you are out in the world helping everyone but yourself; there will not be anyone to help you. So do you: say you don’t want to go to a party because you worked a long day and would rather watch Netflix? Don’t go, there will be more parties and if that ends a friendship than that friend is stupid and you should hang out with cooler people who get you. If you don’t like something in your life then change it. People who love you will be more concerned with your happiness than how your actions effect them. This doesn’t mean be a selfish jerk, it means be self-aware and know when to say ‘No thanks’. I guarantee that you will be significantly happier if you take care of yourself like you take care of the people you love.