“Well, thanks for stopping and let’s catch up in a couple weeks when you guys are done syruping”. My girlfriend’s words stopped me in my tracks.

For a moment it caught me off guard. I was totally expecting that she’d invite me in and we’d hang out for a little bit and then I’d head back home. On the way over I was thinking I really didn’t have a lot of time to talk, and how I was going to convey my appreciation for her letting me borrow her fryer for boiling sap, and get out of there fairly quickly as to get home and get things done that needed to be done. “I just got into my PJ’s (it was 7:30pm and she had just gotten home from an on call admission) and my roommate just went to bed” she said. Huh? I was a little confused as I walked to my car, only because it just was not what I was preparing for. By the time I sat in the seat I had genuine joy and pride in my heart, thinking, “Good for her! What a great boundary! I’m so proud of her!” Way too often we do things out of a sense of obligation being fearful of hurting someone’s feelings, or coming off as selfish. Women especially suffer with this affliction of assuming responsibility for others feelings and that somewhere it became our job to make sure everyone feels good about themselves all the time, and that we are the person to help or save the day for others all the time, often at our own compromise. Sure, we all want to be there for our friends and loved ones; we want to hang out, be part of the group, and feel wanted and included. Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO), as it is called. FOMO is a major player as no one wants to be the person who misses out on the fun, but also as any part of being there for others. 

Boundaries say, “I care about you, and I care about myself too”. Personal boundaries tell others you recognize what is yours to do and be, when you can do and be it, and when we need to say, “thanks, but no thanks”. But Anne, won’t people think I’m selfish if I say no?  As a wise teacher of mine used to say, “some will, some won’t, so what”.  In my opinion, people who are put off when you practice this form of self care are either people with no boundaries of their own so they can’t understand you having them, or people who are so self absorbed that they can’t fathom anyone telling them no, because they view themselves as super special. Be a healthy example for both types! By taking care of yourself and your needs, or stepping into the practice of (because it is a practice) taking care of your own needs, you are showing your value for yourself. This is good! We need to practice self value even if in the beginning it doesn’t feel natural. It is a practice, and practice we shall.  

Just as my friend did, she demonstrated her ability to value herself by lovingly, but directly, stating that tonight was not the night we would be catching up and visiting. She needed rest and she was claiming the need for herself. She didn’t need a good enough reason, although in this case, she had one. All she needed was to recognize what she needed for her own wellbeing and recognize my acceptance of it was not her problem. SO TRUE! 

If you don’t, no one else will.  Way too often we think we can’t say no, or worse yet, we believe others should realize what we need and provide it for us instead of us taking care of ourselves. What?!  No grown person should honestly believe that it is someone else’s job to know what their personal needs are and how to provide for them! We are all adults here. If you don’t know what you need, no one else will. If you can’t speak your truth on your own behalf, well, good luck to you. May I suggest you start to practice a new behavior.

Know yourself and value yourself enough to let others know how to care for you. “I’m sorry I can’t right now”, or “I’m not available tonight but how about another time” are really easy things to say that are not offensive and simply state your self care claim.  Was I put off by her firm hold on her door frame, stopping me before I entered the house?  Not even a little bit. I love her. We’ve been friends since we were kids. 

Let me be clear. A huge part of my pride for my friend is that I’ve known her long enough to know she has not always owned her ability to say no and to care for herself in this way. It is a lesson she has learned on purpose, through practice.  It requires some faith and value in yourself and also in those who love and value you. You can claim your own needs and still be loved, respected and included. People who love you want  you to be well; happy, healthy, well rested, relaxed, all the things, because then you will be the best of yourself when they do have the gift of your company. You will feel better and everyone will enjoy each other more! When we take care of ourselves we get more from life, not less. We are indeed happier, healthier, more patient, more compassionate, more fun, whatever the occasion denotes, because when we feel cared for inside, we bring our best to the outside world. 

It’s simple folks. Know what you need, when you need it, how you need it. Value yourself and your own wellbeing. Take care of yourself, and then you will have the energy and desire to help care with others. 

Forever the journey, Anne

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