As far back as I can remember, I had trouble putting my needs first.
I grew up in a home where I was taught it was selfish to think of myself ahead of others. I’d stand last in the queue at birthday parties when the cake was dished out so that I could make sure I wasn’t that selfish child whom no-one would like. I was so shy.
When I look back now, I feel sad for that child. She missed out on a lot.
I absolutely know that my parents believed it was helpful, and the right thing to do. It was something they truly believed, and of course, they wanted to raise children who would fit in, not annoy others, and receive love. I don’t blame them and I am so grateful for how they cared about others.
The thing is, though, it still had an impact. It’s not always healthy to stand last in the queue. I know that now, after years of working on things like boundaries, saying no, standing up for my needs, and even discovering the fact that I had needs.
I can remember the first time I came across the concept of boundaries and co-dependence. I had just divorced and attended a weekly divorce recovery group. The facilitator mentioned the terms and I was floored when I started reading about these concepts.
“I was co-dependent… really?” That sounded like a nasty affliction that I didn’t want to be labeled with!
Next, I found out about ‘needs’. I was in the process of becoming an EFT Trainer and the person leading a workshop questioned us about our needs that weren’t getting met.
I had a similar response to in the divorced group… “What?! Needs? That sounds so… awful and needy! I don’t have those things! I’m strong!”
I can smile now. I also feel a lot of compassion for that younger me, who had gone through life up to that point by soldiering on and denying all her own needs, yet being so willing to make sure others had theirs.
It was a gradual awakening for me, then, to discover my deepest patterns that showed up again and again, with me having no apparent control over my actions. Things like:
- Ending up with too much work on my plate, and not enough time to do it
- Having awful anxiety about everything I said I would do
- Working unreasonable hours, and not getting enough sleep because of everything I had said yes to, without thinking
- Hearing myself volunteer to take on yet another project, without considering what was already on my plate
- Charging way too little for my work because I didn’t want to push away clients with high prices
- Bending over backward for clients to have session times that would suit them, but not me
- Spending way too many hours working for a terribly sad bank balance
- Feeling constant resentment, obligation, and exhaustion
- Feeling trapped with no way to change this, for fear of rejection and isolation
In 2009, I became aware of a deep yearning to write and publish a book. The problem was, I didn’t know what to write about. I agonized for months about a possible topic. I even had coaching sessions to help me get started and months later, had made no progress.
One day, it finally dawned on me that if I wrote from experience, I had something to say. And what did I have oodles of experience in, that I could combine with my beloved tool of EFT?
“Oh, YES”, I finally realized…. “That thing that I can’t do? Saying No… and putting myself first… “
What a perfect topic. I was scared and excited, all at the same time.
As I started writing, I realized what a big topic this was, and how many layers and factors contributed to a pattern like this.
In the process of writing this book, I interviewed others with similar patterns, had EFT sessions with them to help them get past their blocks, I drew from my clients and mostly, from my own many experiences. I could absolutely write as an expert on the subject!
I identified 15 reasons why people could find it hard to ‘Say No’:
- If I say no, they won’t like/love me anymore
- I don’t have a choice
- Their needs are more important than mine
- They need me (no-one else can help)
- They expect me to do this, and I hate disappointing anyone
- I’ll be selfish if I say no
- Someone will be upset – and I hate conflict
The book contains a chapter about EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) which explains exactly how to tap for your own issues. It also has suggestions for phrases anyone can use, to tap for the specific reasons I addressed.
Now, 7 years after publishing, I would have included more aspects I’d since discovered. For instance:
- …that I’m an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) and that has an influence on my reactions to the world and other people. I get overwhelmed easily with too much stimulation, and it’s often easier to just say ‘yes’. But then, it’s much harder to manage the overload afterward.
- …that I’m also an Empath, who truly feels the emotions of others. And this has a huge impact on how I experience someone else’s disappointment, disapproval or frustration. Of course, I would want to avoid feeling someone’s disappointment – because I would also feel that I would need to do something to fix that for them. A double whammy.
- …that we all have strengths, and that they have an influence on the patterns we try so hard to heal and ‘get rid of’. I had simply not been aware that some of these patterns are desirable, amazing, and valuable. They also make me extremely skilled in my work as an EFT Practitioner. I discovered my Clifton Strengths in 2015, a few years after the book was published… and I would have included how our patterns also have a very positive and valuable side.
If you’re struggling with saying no more often, or to take your own needs into account, I have so much empathy. I want to almost take your hand and look you in the eye and say “Oh, yes, dear person, I understand. I get what it feels like. It’s hard. And… there’s another way.”
If I look back on my journey now, and how my life was before I wrote the book, I’m incredibly grateful. I’m so glad I went on the journey to discover how this pattern works, how all the layers of it fit together, and what to do about it.
There IS so much we can do. We certainly don’t need to keep standing in the back of the queue. That ultimately hurts or even harms us. It’s not sustainable. Our health and wellbeing won’t last, and then someone else will have to pick us up and care for us.
I bet that’s going to be uncomfortable!
You may even have had the experience already where your body said “Enough!” and got sick, or too tired to carry on.
I have learned since I started walking this awareness journey, that I’d rather tell myself “Enough for one day” than have my body say it for a few days or even weeks.
If Saying No is your struggle, a few last words:
I have so.much.empathy, I’ve been there. I know how unpleasant it is to even contemplate a change, yet needing it.
Please show yourself some compassion too. We’re so quick to be kind to others. Yet, kindness is not complete if we don’t include ourselves.
Blessings to you on your journey of awareness to include your own needs!
Image Source: Pexels
Author Bio: Liesel Teversham is the author of NO problem. The Upside of Saying No and Coping with a Dying Pet. She is also an Advanced EFT Practitioner. She offers various healing and coaching modalities like Support for Introverts who want to Thrive and Discover and Love your Strengths. You can also connect with her on Facebook.