So I haven’t done a “therapy” or anxiety update for a while, mainly because my therapy stopped over the summer, and I start again this week but also because I haven’t really had much to share. I have been plodding along, working on some tasks that my therapist had set me, homework like, during this break.
One thing I know about myself, is that I set myself a high standard. I expect a lot of myself, and I put a lot of importance on what other people think and expect of me. I am a people pleaser, and I like to keep people happy, and do what is expected of me, and will often sacrifice my own sense of well being, or comfort to achieve this. Sounds normal right? After all, life works like that, doesn’t it? There are things we HAVE to do, in order to function and be members of our society and culture. We have to go to school and work, I have to feed my children, and ensure their well being, and be as good a parent as possible, we have to live with our loved ones, be considerate, kind, compromising and loving, we have to pay our bills, and try not to break the laws of the land. (OK, so we don’t HAVE to, we can choose not to, but life gets pretty messy and complicated, if we don’t)
What I have learned, partly through therapy, partly from talking to other people who feel the same as me, and partly probably from “growing older” is that whilst there are things that we HAVE no choice about, there are things that we do have a choice about and if we don’t want to do them/partake/be part of it, then we don’t have to. Whilst others may have an expectation or a view that we should like and want to be be part of something, or enjoy something, that doesn’t mean we have to conform to that, at our own personal mental health expense.
I have been invited to several things recently, that normally, I would go along to, but not without much anxiety, fear, feelings of helplessness, and an intense desire to NOT be at these things. I get very angry, usually with the people organising the thing, illogically, of course, because they don’t know how I feel, and then I get angry at myself, because I simply cannot be a person who thrives and enjoys what is being suggested or organised.
They aren’t awful things, in fact, a lot of people like and enjoy them, have a good experience and come away feeling like it has been beneficial to them. That doesn’t work for me. I don’t enjoy them. I don’t get much benefit from them, because of the build up of anxiety before hand, dealing with my emotions afterwards and then the relief that overwhelms me when finished. Certain things that other people enjoy, are “not my thing”.
I have spend most of my life pushing myself, often to a point of breaking, to make myself go to things or take part in things, because it’s what is expected of me. Now, I am realising that sometimes it’s OK to say “no, it’s not my thing, thanks” and decline. When I am then challenged or an attempt to persuade me is made, I have started to find the strength to push back, and simply say “you know what, I don’t feel comfortable, I don’t enjoy it, it makes me very anxious, and I don’t need to be there, so no thank you, it’s not my thing!” I don’t need to hear “but you will be OK when you are there”, or “but it will be good for you” or “you need to get over this, and just do it”, because frankly, I don’t. If something doesn’t work for me, and the stress of trying is going to outweigh any good I will get out of that thing, then I am going to say no.
It’s hard for people to understand, and “get it”. When someone enjoys something and thinks someone else should too, it’s often seen as rude when a person declines, or won’t take part. It’s not personal. I don’t love the people in my life any less, because I don’t want to take part in certain things with them. I feel happier, being absent. I am learning not to resent myself for not taking part, and to be happy in my own skin, with my own space and rules.
So, if you ask me to do something, or to be part of something, and I am open, and honest with you, and tell you “it’s not my thing, I would prefer not to”, please don’t push, please don’t try and persuade me. I am learning to look after myself, at the grand old age of 38, and sometimes, that will mean breaking from expectations and doing things “because that’s what we do” and I am OK with that, and you need to be to.
If you are a person with anxiety, I hope this helps you to feel better, if you are struggling with the same issues. We can look after ourselves, and put boundaries down, as we learn how to walk this road to not being broken, and helping to heal our minds. It is ok to say no, and to make ourselves a priority sometimes.