No...no, no, no, no!
Look, I can say it; I can type it and I can shout it from the rooftops, but why on Earth when someone needs me can the word "No" not come to mind?
No, I don't really want to babysit. No, I don't want to drag my kid out of bed to go to breakfast. No, I don't want to help with your tasks that you didn't make time for. Why can't I just stop? Why can't I slow it all down and give myself a break? Come on self you know you have enough on your plate, enough already! OK — just say no. Ugh, my brain cannot retain what my heart tells it to do.
When I was growing up, I was always told to be a "kind and caring" girl, someone that people can come to. I was always offered a listening ear and a hug, which Momma I am so grateful for, but at the same time, I think I have overdone the advice given to me at an early age. A source of my anxiety is the idea that people will think I don't care enough. I will rip myself to shreds if someone says I should've done more. I will replay the moment over and over, and as much as I tell people to relax and take tasks one at a time, I myself am a hypocrite — Yup, in that aspect, I do not practice what I preach. . . but I'm learning.
Many people see strength in a "yes man," a person who can juggle it all while running on four hours of sleep. Truth be told I am this kind of person. The kind that does too much for too many. I will lose sleep over the work of others. I will offer myself until I have nothing left to give. I will go without just to make others comfortable and most days I can handle it and other times I drive myself nuts. I have "loaned" money with no return, I have lost sleep, I have answered the phone at obscene times, I have cleaned someone else's space before my own, and I have held hands and hugged people in need; I don't regret any of it — hear that — I don't regret any of it, but I do struggle.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not just a mom; I am a fiancé, I am a student and I am a world of other things. Any one of those things could be overwhelming for someone, so just imagine being them all and trying to handle everyone else's circus. I love being helpful and needed, but sometimes I need a helping hand too.
I am "the strong one" or "the mom friend", and by that I mean the friend who is always there for adult advice and questions. I have to learn things and know how to explain them, I have to go above and beyond because if I do the bare minimum people will think I suddenly just stopped caring. If I don't put six emojis and start using periods in my text messages people assume that I hate their guts. Seriously. . . this happens around two to three times a week. I have been taken advantage of by so many people that I consider important.
It's not fair to tell myself no. I have cared more about others' problems than even they did, and that's not fair. It's not fair to continue doing things for people even when they have squeezed me dry like a damn sponge. It's not fair that the bulk of my relationships go one-way. I automatically have the expectation that people are like-minded to me, that they will do and be what I need because they take the time to know me. . . but that's not always the case. People have boasted about the fact that no matter how they treat me I will call, that even if we argue I will continue to send messages and keep up with them and on paper that sounds like I'm the best, but in reality, I am damaging myself more than they ever could've. I read a quote today that hit me like a truck, "Some people will only 'love you' as much as they can use you. Their loyalty ends where the benefit stops."
It is a common idea that you shouldn't change yourself based on others' actions. As much as I agree with that statement, I really like to think it doesn't apply here. I have continued to be genuine and to be optimistic when I lend a hand or voice to someone, but I'm learning that I can love from afar. I'm learning that I can say that I'm not up for it today, I can choose where the conversation stops and say that I have had enough; I'm learning that I can be truthful in the fact that I am tired. I am allowed to weed out toxicity.
I'm learning that my life, although encompasses others, doesn't just revolve around their needs. You can care without putting every emotion and every ounce of energy into someone else. You are allowed to say, "No". It isn't a bad word. It creates boundaries and sets ground rules. Treat yourself how you would treat others; The "reverse golden rule," it's new and super exclusive. You are allowed to ask for help and light the world on fire at the same time. You are allowed to point out when someone hurts you and love them at the same time. I'm learning that love also includes myself. That it is important for me to surround myself with those who will notice when I'm down and lift me up, and those people will understand why some days the answer is just "No."