In my teens, I had a condition that was severe and had many symptoms. The condition was called: "the need to be liked, desperately”. It was interesting how my condition showed up in this very subtle and kind of slick way; so much so that I was unaware of it’s power in my life. It started out as me wanting to be polite, and make everyone think that I was this incredibly charming southern gentleman that would jump at the first opportunity to anticipate their needs. I would tire myself by being attentive to everyone’s preferences so that I could anticipate what they wanted to eat, where they wanted to go or what movie they wanted to see. Choosing myself second, always. It got to the point that I didn’t know what I liked or what I wanted. I was learning something that wasn’t healthy: how to say NO to myself and my hierarchy of needs, and say YES to everyone else’s needs.
Fast Forward to a situation in which a woman whom I dated for a short period of time kept pressuring me to spend time with her, even though our bond was short lived. The pain of a relationship not working between us really affected her in ways it honestly didn’t affect me. To be even more transparent, initially I had a high level of guilt about engaging with her because I knew that I did not want something long-term. I was mad at myself for starting an emotional dialogue when I had no future plans of sustaining it. So once I ended it, it was traumatic because this person was emotionally fragile and hurt, and I was affected as I never had any intentions of hurting her.
Eventually, that situation turned into a friendship. However, there was something very unsettling about it because I was getting nothing positive out of our interactions. This person constantly blamed me for not giving her what she wanted, and she always reminded me of the actions I displayed towards her in the past. Every moment I spent with her was a reminder of the old me, the people pleaser even at my own expense.
It wasn't until years later that I realized that I was essentially being guilted into a friendship all this time. And you know what? I allowed it; I thought it was my recompense. But one day after a particularly unsettling conversation, I woke up and said, "You know what? I am done saying NO to myself, and YES to everyone else”. I could no longer swim upstream into the abyss of someone else’s emotional desires for me. I decided to dock that boat, anchor it, and hop out, as it was time for me to journey onto the path that I truly desired. I had to make a choice, who was I going to prioritize?
I began asking myself questions, like:
-When have I ever chosen myself?
-When have I taken the time to give myself the experience that my heart, mind, body and soul earnestly request from me?
-Furthermore, the times when I did chose myself, and what I needed, how did that feel?
I began to hold onto the moments when I chose Ulysses - what I needed and preferred. And I remembered the feelings of bliss that came from those times I put myself first.
So, I had a conversation with this woman whom I felt was emotionally holding me hostage, and told her that I was really sorry for my previous actions, but that I could no longer let that constitute an unnatural bond that was unhealthy for the both of us. I assured her that I cared about her but that I would have to discontinue the friendship because I needed to be empowered in all of my relationships and associations, and they must represent a resounding YES. She wasn't happy, but she had no choice but to accept.
That YES to me, unfortunately meant NO to her, but I only get one shot at this life, and I must always take care of myself first - be the priority of my own life.
This Valentine's holiday my challenge is to "Choose Me”. Typically, this holiday has ushered in a lot of unnecessary tension in my life, especially being "single". I've asked myself: Am I saying YES to others and NO to my own needs in order to fulfill the cliche feelings I am pressured to feel on this day?
I heard a quote the other day that stated, “Your heart determines what you see”, which means if my heart is empty or depleted, my vision will be limited and partial. However, when I say YES to myself, it fills my heart and allows me to be really full, which is the birthplace of good decision making. And even when I choose to honor someone else’s desires, I still want to feel that that choice includes me and my desires as well.
Happy Valentine's Day and whether single or committed, make sure your YES includes you, first!