Over the past year, I have become aware how deeply difficult it is for me to prioritize my own needs and self-care.
When I am put in a situation where I must say no, I feel a literal physical reaction. My heart begins to pound. My chest tightens. My voice gets shaky.
As this exact scenario played out today, I began asking myself, why is this happening? Why does my body almost go into a state of panic when I am being asked to do something I do not want to do but feel obligated to say yes to?
The short answer to this is, at some point in my life, I internalized the belief that it's not safe to put my well-being first. In order to survive an unstable, unpredictable upbringing, I learned the things that worked best for me at that time. My body memorized these feelings, and they became a part of who I am.
Since I was just a child when I developed this life coping skill, I was coming up with answers that were based in a child's awareness of the world and relationships. I based my needs on the needs of those around me, particularly my parents, who were not always providing a safe and supportive environment. In order to make it safe, I began to prioritize THEIR needs. If I could keep them happy, they would not take their anger out on me as much, which in a way actually DID make me happy.
As a child, I believed I'd found the key to lifelong happiness. Just keep everyone else happy, be agreeable, and you won't suffer a day in your life! Unfortunately, Little Melissa had no awareness of finding happiness through nurturing HER needs.
As an adult, I had no awareness that I was still living from this distorted child-like thinking. And so, when someone would ask me to do something for them, my entire body would tell me to say YES or something bad would happen. Something physically or emotionally bad would happen and I would suffer. This of course isn't true, because I am an adult now and no one has power over me except me. But my body has MEMORIZED past experiences, and in an attempt to avoid repeating past pain, it's trying to repeat what worked before.
Except what worked before doesn't work at all now. It is in fact the source of my pain. My get out of jail free card is now torturing me. For years, I have lamented that I feel like the family doormat. Need something done? Ask Melissa! She always says yes! It's a circular experience that builds on itself, as the more I say yes the more comfortable people feel asking me, until I want to SCREAM.
I keep shouting into the wind "Why doesn't anyone realize that I HAVE NEEDS TOO?"
The answer, of course, is obvious. I am always, whether in literal words or through my energy or my actions, telling other people how to treat me. Before someone has even asked me to do something, my inner Self has already said yes. I am in that pattern, it is radiating off me, and the only way it will change is when I change.
No one can change my inner world for me.
Which brings me to today, when a family member asked me if I could provide long term help with something starting this summer. I knew I had to say no. I was overwhelmed just thinking about it. Not to mention frustrated at the fact that my life would be put on pause for MONTHS in order to do this. Is there no room for me in my own life?
And so with a shaky voice, and a knot in my stomach, I said no. I didn't elaborate or get into too much detail. I just said that it was too much for me, and it was a no for me.
The overwhelming PANIC in my body that I was doing everything wrong and I would pay the price took awhile to subside. But as the fear subsided, I felt that old encoded story leaving my physical essence. And when it did, I felt a sense of empowerment and ease I'd never felt before. And that family member? They worked it out. Everything was fine.
This was a powerful step for me to take. As with everything, I know I won't master this new way of being overnight. There will be progress and setbacks. But I'm on my way. And damn that feels good.
If you also struggle with self-care, feeling like a priority in your life, or just general well-being, I have created a deeply healing Self-Care package. This package is a three part healing course, going through self-care, mindfulness, and meditation. It includes a deep dive workbook, guided meditations, and tons of love and support. Click the button below to learn more!
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