There’s a difference between being selfless, and doing something because you’ll feel like a bad person if you don’t do it.
One is a form of giving from a place of abundance, the other is a form of draining yourself because you’re afraid of not bending over backwards for others.
It’s textbook people pleasing behavior. We so badly want to feel loved and needed and accepted, that we allow other people’s needs and feelings to take precedence over ours. But because accommodating others is so ingrained in us, stopping is not only difficult, it’s terrifying.
And so, we wind up with multiple boundary violations, alienated from our true self, wondering why we’re not happy. Tragic.
It’s so hard to watch people put themselves at the bottom of their own list. I remember when our marriage counselor taught us a helpful technique for overcoming this kind of behavior. During the planning of our wedding, for example, she suggested using a code word anytime there was a questionable people pleasing moment.
If a parent or relative or vendor asked my wife and I for a particular commitment, before saying yes to their request, one of us would respond, we need to go to our office to discuss, and we’ll be back in a few minutes.
This stalling maneuver bought us time, allowed us to think clearly and enabled us to make decisions as a team. And to our surprise, nobody ever had a problem with it. In fact, some family members even commented at how effective the office technique was.
That’s what happens when you set a boundary honestly, respectfully and most importantly, jointly.
Remember, the heart has limits. You cannot care about everything. And if you don’t set boundaries, other people will set them for you. And then they will violate them. Because you didn’t set a precedent.
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What code words do you use to put yourself at the top of your own list?
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That Guy with the Nametag
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