It feels normal to abandon your needs
You’re planning a group dinner with friends. Everyone is deciding where to meet, and someone throws out the name of a restaurant you hate. But, you think to yourself, “If everyone else wants to go there, that’s okay, I can figure out something to eat.”, instead of voicing your opinion and making someone disappointed.
Another day, you are working on a project with a coworker. She wants to create a powerpoint presentation, but you feel that is outdated. You would rather create a video presentation, but she seems adamant, so you just go along, even though you feel like it will not show your creativity.
Your spouse calls you and tells you he will not be able to get the kids after school because of a meeting that is running late. This will make you have to leave your own meeting early, but you give in because he makes more money than you do.
You abandon yourself in just about every situation where a conflict arises, because you feel you are easy going and can adapt. Your friends and family appreciate that about you, because they love that you are accomodating. You’re easy to live with, work with, and partner with.
The problem with always abandoning yourself
When you continuously abandon yourself, you give up your needs, your desires and your dreams. I think I inherited this trait from my mother. My father is a very assertive person, and my mother would give up her own needs to accomodate him. He decided he wanted to have a hunting lease in a part of Texas that is covered in cactus and every kind of thorny plant you can think of. It is a great place to hunt for deer, quail and doves. We came to really love it there, and my kids grew up with wonderful memories of that place, but my mother would have much rather had a vacation home near a lake or a beach. She gave in to my dad, and spent many weekends and holidays there with him, otherwise she would have been home alone.
You might say, “Well life is about compromise, right?”, but here’s the thing, it rarely ever went both ways. My mother loved to travel. She traveled with friends, and often me, but my father rarely took the time to travel with her. He just didn’t want to. He doesn’t like to travel. If she wanted to spend time with him, it was on his terms. She chose to make that sacrifice, so I thought it was perfectly normal to give in to the other person that wants something and is not willing to give in. Not, surprisingly, my first husband and many of my friends were like my father, and very sure of what they wanted.
I was the one to give in at my teaching job when an undesirable teaching position needed to be filled. I was always the one to compromise on how my weekends were spent with my ex. I gave in to my kids when they wanted to have me taxi them around with their friends, and give up a get-together with my own friends. I gave in to my friends when they wanted to spend a weekend girl’s trip at a place I didn’t really want to pay for.
Not only was I giving up on my dreams and desires, I started becoming sick with all kind of ailments, and gaining weight too. I was unhappy with my job, my homelife, and my marriage. I went about my days like a zombie. Get up, go to work, drive the kids to their many extra-curricular activities, cook dinner, go to bed, and start again the next day. There was no goal or purpose, except to get through each day without some kind of drama.
Self-abandonment feels normal because we’ve been conditioned to give in to others or follow instructions by parents, coaches, teachers, clergy members and society in general. In fact, right now, many governments are telling citizens to wear a mask, make medical decisions, and isolate yourself to keep other people healthy, even though the science is murky and there is no real evidence that those things are helpful.
How to start choosing yourself when you forgot how
First, you have to decide what you want your life to look like in the future. Which parts of your life are you happy with, and what needs to go? Do you like where you live? How is your job? Do you see yourself there in 5 years? 10 years? What about your marriage, and your friendships? Are they fulfilling? Do you feel supported?
Next, start making small decisions that won’t cause a lot of conflict until you feel more confident. Choose the restaurant everyone will eat at. Choose a painting for the house without anyone’s input. When your spouse asks which movie you want to watch, make a decision and state it confidently.
Set boundaries with the people in your life that feel safe to you. For example, I knew my mother would love me no matter what. I could set a boundary with her and she would not hold it against me. My boss didn’t feel as safe to set a boundary with, because she could make my job even more difficult. I didn’t set a boundary with her until I was pushed to, or after I became more confident in myself and knew that I could leave my job if I needed to.
Probably the most important step of all is practicing self-care. The more time you spend taking care of your physical and emotional health, the more confidant you will feel in knowing what you want and fighting for what you desire. When you start feeling better about yourself because you are moving your body every day, you will argue to fit that time into your day. When you stop compromising on putting junky food into your body that makes you feel awful, you will make eating healthier a priority.
There will be a time for compromise, but you can get your needs met and feel fulfilled
Yes, of course there will be times you will need to compromise with others, but you can still get your needs met and live a fulfilling life. Every relationship should have a little give and take. You should not be compromising the most. Fight for your dreams and desires!