A casual friend asked me to do something to help her out – for pay – and I answered, “I’m sorry, but I have another commitment on Wednesday afternoons”. Here’s the big news – the commitment is to myself. In the (not so distant) past I would have felt compelled to alter my own schedule for 2-3 months in order to help her.
You see, because I could do it, I was programmed to say, “Yes” and abandon whatever I had planned. In this case, I would be giving up something that it’s taken me years to begin doing for myself. Somehow I found the clarity of mind, the actual (not pretend) belief in the importance of my own life choices to say, “No, I have another commitment.”
I may be belaboring this point, but the urge to take care of others, to meet their needs before my own, to save them (from the consequences of their own choices), that compulsion is very strong. I really thought that the drive to serve was hard-wired in my little brain, after all these years. But its true what the neuro-psychologists say, you can alter your brain circuitry. All the years of reciting affirming words about my self-worth seemed silly; honestly it felt like a joke. But the little, powerful synapses or whatever, have triumphed. New grooves!
I have held the deeply seated, life-long belief that the only way to be a ‘good person’ (whatever that means… probably ‘a ‘good female’) was to selflessly rescue others. I’m certain that I said “No” as a child. I must have. Every child does. But the older I get, the more I am aware that those were different times. I was trained to acquiesce, to agree, to do what I was told or asked to do. Long before I had any significant cognitive abilities, (age two?) the habit of saying, “Yes” was well established. Certainly the family unit functioned more smoothly that way.
I was a docile, compliant girl, trying to please even those who treated me poorly, even when my inner voice began to protest. As a college student, I began to participate in public protests regarding social/political issues. But in the personal arena, I remained a “Yes” girl for a very, very long time. Now I’m rewriting the script. I said “No”.