I come from this remarkable family of givers. They are truly lovely people who would offer the shirts off their backs. They are helpful, resourceful and generous. Imagine my surprise when I finally found them and at 48 realized that my altruistic nature was hardwired into my DNA. It's not a bad thing. It's just when you add my nurturing Cancerian nature to the genetic mainframe I become generous to a fault. Like Ado Annie, 'I'm just a girl who caint say no,' and it always puts me in a terrible fix! One I am so ready to be out of.
Unlike Annie, my inability to utter that two-letter word has little to do with romantic attention and everything to do with my willingness to focus my attention, time and energy on everyone, but me. Like a lot of women I don't do enough to help me. Instead, I channel my energies into anyone else's problems, needs, projects and concerns forfeiting time and efforts which could be utilized to resolve my own problems, needs, projects and concerns. Like too many of us, I have learned to do for everyone else before I do for me. I take the leftovers and squeeze a day's worth of tasks into the last few minutes of my day when I am tired and lacking energy. I don't know who taught me that I wasn't worth my own time and efforts, but I've learned the lesson all too well.
For some women, it is our desire to be a supportive caring spouse, partner, lover which drives us to distraction in the caregiver department. Instead of offering support, we take on the entire task as our own and push our needs to the bottom of the checklist. It is a perversity that we go out of our way to help others while not lifting a finger to do something which will enhance our own lives. For others, we self sacrifice saying it is for the good of our children. But is it really good? What kinds of messages are we sending our young girls - everyone else is more important than you are? And our young boys - you and your needs are more important than your mate? Those attitudes demolish self esteem and mine is quickly tanking!
My inability to say no (or to use it appropriately) has set up some very dangerous patterns of behavior among people I know and love. I get taken for granted not only because I allow it, but because my own behavior demands it. "No," I say. "You go on ahead. I'll just wait." And wait I do. For my turn, my time, my whatever which never comes because I have not made room for it. Sometimes I simply have not asked for or demanded it. My turn as low man on the totem pole is my own durn fault. Me and Annie, 'I always say "come on, let's go!" Jist when I orta say nix... It's time to change this situation.
My friend Yolanda reminded me recently that it is OK to be selfish sometimes. "Right now," she said very pointedly, "is one of those times." You see, I am in transition, moving from one part of my life journey into the next. I don't know what it will look like when all is said and done, but I do know what parts of the last 50 years cannot be repeated. So, while I am figuring out what to do with the next 50 years of my life, I am going to work on rewiring some of that inherited altruism and harness some of this philanthropic energy for me. It is time that I learn how to give to me that beautiful love I so readily give away to everyone else.
It is time for me to refocus my energy and time on me and stop giving away my last when I need it the most. It is simply time for me to stop being such an overgiver. Just stop. And while I understand my predisposition makes this task nearly impossible, I am going to give it a try, not forever, but let's say for one week. Starting today. And if you suffer from the same untamed spirit of giving at the sacrifice of yourself, please feel free to copy this list I created which I hope will help me regain some control over my people pleasing persona. And always one to give due, thanks to my sister Cecelia for being the inspiration for this post. You rock, Sis. Now get to checking off the list!
- Giving too much of yourself? Just STOP! Maybe not for a week, but for a day, or an hour, or an hour a day.
- Say it. I will not do anything for anyone else but me. It's kind of hard to say, right?!
- I am going to be selfish and focus all of my energy on me.
- I am going to give to myself unabashedly, and unapologetically.
- I am going to practice the "N" word by saying "NO" repeatedly until it feels like it is a permanant part of my vocabulary.
- I am going to take the time I would offer to someone else to do something for them and instead do something just for me, just because it makes ME feel good.
- I am going to shut down the negative self talk and replace it with loving words of grandeur until I laugh, giggle, smile and know that within me is the beautiful, loving, worthy person who is valued and irreplaceable.
- I am going to allow myself all of the mistakes I need to make, all of the errors I have to make to continue on my journey toward wholeness and wellness.
- I am going to let the phone ring when I know it is someone who usually wants something from me because this week I am not going to give to them.
- I am going to let the texts from those same people go unread.
- I am going to not answer my emails until I am good and ready.
- I am going to create a fabulous meal just for me and take the time needed to purchase the right ingredients, utilize the right utensils and bust out the good china including that lovely crystal champagne flute I bought for a special occassion which I will fill with my favorite champagne, sparkling wine, apple juice or fancy bubbly water - my choice.
- I am going to take an extra long soak in the tub filled with those rose petal soaps till I smell frilly and sweet and would want me for an aromatic dinner companion.
- I am going wear the new dress shirt, slacks and tie I bought with the money I was going to loan to someone just because they asked.
- I am going to do for me all that I do for everyone else, every day of the week, every week of the month, every month of the year, until I truly know what it feels like to be loved by me.
I don't know. This might take a little more than a week.
Robin G. White is an award-winning author, playwright and publisher. Find out more about Robin at http://www.robingwhite.com/.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.