I guess in my mind there are only two choices: being nice or being mean. There really wasn’t anything in between.
And if I was nice, I was usually sacrificing what I really wanted.
Example 1: If my son wanted to go out to dinner, even though I didn’t want to eat that late or spend the money, I felt like I was in an awkward situation. If I said yes, I was resentful and if I said no, I felt like a boring, stick in the mud, bad mother. Either way was a no win.
Example 2: One day, my mother was confused and wondered why her caregiver was returning after a week off. “Why does she need to come? Do you really think I need someone to be with me all the time?” I am still haunted by the look on her face. I couldn’t answer without crying. “How could I do this to her?” I asked myself. Either way I “felt bad.” Either I lied or I told her something horrible.
Example 3: My ex was stopping by my mother’s house uninvited. It was awkward to either let him in the house or tell him he couldn’t come in and had to leave. I either resented him for being there or “felt bad and mean” for saying no.
The quote of the week is “Are YOU putting pressure on YOURSELF?” Somehow, I was living in a paradigm where there were no good alternatives. I was constantly “feeling bad” as I have mentioned in the examples above and feeling intense amounts of pressure.
Today I was talking to my wise mentor. “I feel like I either have to be nice and sacrifice myself or mean and feel terrible,” I said.
“That’s a very young conversation,” she said.
“Well, it seems either/or,” I said. “And I end up feeling resentful or bad.”
“You can be compassionate without feeling bad,” she said gently.
“Hmmm………..What’s the difference?” I asked.
“Compassion is having empathy for the person. Being in their world. It has nothing to do with you.”
“So when I feel bad I am making it something about me? Like I should be able to help them or do something or it’s my fault they are in this situation?”
“Yes. All of these scenarios don’t have anything to do with you. They are living their life. You didn’t do this to them or cause this.”
“Wow. That’s amazing. I always think everything is my fault somehow. I think that’s why I feel bad all the time.”
“Yes, and it’s not. You can be kind and direct. You can be kind and firm. You can be nice and straight.”
“Wow, that’s a new world for me. Thank you.”
Let’s redo the examples above with compassion and directness:
Example 1: “I’m not going to go with you. Thank you for the invite.”
Example 2: “Yes, mom. I do think you will be safer with someone with you.”
Example 3: “Please wait for an invitation before you come by. Thank you.”
Wow. There is no suffering in those second set of responses. I am being firm. There is no longer any reason to “feel bad.” I am a great mother whether I go out to dinner with my son or not. I am a great daughter even though I am sad. And, I can have the life I want, regardless of what someone else is asking of me. It’s ok to say no.
This is a game changer for me. I am looking forward to having my life work better now. It’s not a choice between nice or mean. It’s being kind and direct. That’s a win/win.
And a whole lot less pressure.
Thanks for listening. Have a great day!!