I’ve always hated disappointing people or letting them down. I want to make the people I love happy and I find it hard to say NO when they ask me to do something for them. So when my husband told me he’d been headhunted for for a job that was exactly what he wanted, I was happy for him until he told me where it was.
After five years of upheaval and living out of suitcases, we had been settled in our sunny house at the end of a quiet street for nearly three years. I loved that my children could play with our neighbors’ children in each others’ back yards and that everyone looked out for each other. For the first time in years I felt I belonged within a wide group of friends (something of a triumph for an introvert!). I didn’t want to move.
But I could see my husband was ready for a new challenge and I couldn’t stand in his way. So I gave him a hug, pinned a smile on my face and started sorting stuff ready for the move. I’d been raised to be a supportive wife and believed that if I made other people happy, their happiness would somehow spill over into my life. But I was wrong. Deep down I felt resentful and angry and I had no idea what to do about it.
There’s nothing wrong with caring for other people and wanting the best for them, but you are not required to put another person’s happiness ahead of your own.
My desire to care for others had morphed into the false belief that I was responsible for their happiness. The only way I could make sure they were happy, was to deny my own needs and desires. How had I ended up with this belief?
I had to learn that there was a difference between caring for other people and making myself responsible for their happiness. I was able to change my beliefs about my place in the world by following the five actions below.
Even today there are times when I struggle to say no to the people I love and I don’t always tell others my needs if I think it will inconvenience them. But I’m learning and my life now is far more fulfilling than it was when I tried to fit in with everybody else and make sure they were happy.
How about you? Do you always put other people first and struggle to say what you want? I’d love to hear how you have learned to care for yourself and meet your own needs.
If this has been helpful or made you think, feel free to share it with others.
Image by VinceHuang