I have always wanted to help. Or to be the person that could help anytime, all the time. It’s felt right most of my life. But, I am that person no longer.
For the longest time, I thought that I could be there for everyone. It seemed like if you were a good person, you’d never turn someone away. You would contort and shift things around and find a way to get things done for them. A favour for a friend; a chore for the family; helping a colleague. I never thought to draw a limit because it felt unnatural.
All this stemmed from a young age where I lacked support. Not love, but support. I grew up in an environment where learning to live independently was intermingled with isolation. Leave them be and they’ll figure it out – was the mindset. And what choice did I have but to figure it out on my own. I learnt things the hard way and in those moments, I believed that it was all for the best. As a kid, my natural instincts were to trust the adults and consider myself as the source of all negativity. So, I kept on pushing and pushing all by myself.
Our experiences shape us all and I’m no exception. I did not ever wish for anyone to feel that way again. So, I considered myself charged with the responsibility of being there for others. I wasn’t good at it all the time, but I constantly wished I was. And so I pushed and I pushed and some days, I collapsed under the burden of this mindset.
But, I am that person no longer.
As of these few months, I am learning to let people down. I am learning to say “no.”
My values about helping someone in need haven’t disappeared. However, now I turn to myself and ask, “Am I capable of providing help in this moment?”. Wishing you could help doesn’t mean you can. And promising help when you know you cannot; may provide you with instant gratification but, in the long run, it simply isn’t sustainable. You end up letting people down anyways. We have to make peace with letting people down. Not as a first resort, but as a result of considering your current state.
You may surprise people when you say no. They may be shocked that after all this time you are putting your foot down. Do not let that faze you. This is a boundary and an important one at that. Some people around us get used to us being malleable. To us shifting our priorities to achieve their goals. It’s one thing to lend a hand and another, to be continuously unhappy or inconvenienced by things that people ask of you. Learn to let them down.
The world often praises those who lived all their lives for others, but that’s not my path. I’ve learnt that when you give someone a hand to pull them up, you gotta make sure you have the strength to get them up. Otherwise, you both end up on the floor.
What is so right for them, could be all wrong for you. What they need, you will not always have. And who they want you to be, might just not be who you are.