Learning to Put Ourselves First – Part 2.

1) Practise saying ‘no’ to one thing or person every day.

You only have to do it once a day. It feels really hard at first. But you are perfectly entitled to say to a family member, for instance, that you don’t have time to do something for them. If the answer comes back “But you had time to do something for Dad/my brother/ at work” – then simply say that you don’t have to justify your decision to them.

We need to practise drawing boundaries – at work as well as at home. Every time you are asked to do something for someone else that increases your workload and reduces theirs, pause a moment. Tell them you need to take a moment (or 5 minutes, or the rest of the day – or even longer!) to think about their request. If their request is going to result in you being run off your feet, tell them that you can’t do it. Be straightforward – tell them you have as much on your plate as you can manage.

If people are used to you saying ‘yes’ all the time, they’re going to react when, one day, you say ‘no’. If your family, friends or colleagues are used to you taking care of their responsibilities, feelings, and problems, they will react when you stop. That’s normal. They may get angry; they may guilt-trip you. So, expect fireworks. Breathe deeply. The fireworks will pass.

2) Step into your Power

As I mention above, when we are learning to say ‘no’ after years of saying ‘yes’ – this skill doesn’t come easily. So it’s crucial that you buy yourself some time to think. Say something like:

  • I’ll have a think about that and get back to you.
  • I’m tired right now. I’ll sleep on it – and give you an answer tomorrow.
  • I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment. I’ll think about what you’ve asked me to do and whether I can do it or not.
  • Sorry – there’s no way I can do that. And I can’t discuss it now. But we can talk about my reasons when I’m ready.

When you are ready, you can set your boundary. This will be along these lines:

  • I need more time to myself now – so I’d like you to start doing your own washing.
  • I’d like a couple of evenings off a week. I want to do an evening class / catch a film with a friend etc. So you guys can prepare the evening meal on those evenings.
  • I’m sorry to hear about your problem. What do you feel is your best course of action?
  • If they say they don’t know what to do and ask you to solve the problem, give them an example of a similar problem you faced at some point, and tell them what you found was helpful in approaching that problem. Then leave them to tackle the problem themselves.
  • When they complain that you’ve always helped them up till now, tell them that you won’t always be around, so it’s a good idea for them to start becoming independent.
  • You can give advice if asked. Just don’t take care of the problem for them.

Release guilt when your addicted daughter (or anyone else) complains at this new approach from you – it’s much more about her and her expectations than anything you’ve done. She’ll act out at first because that’s what spoiled children (and adults) do. Her reaction is her stuff, not yours. Don’t respond to her complaints or attempts to manipulate you into changing your mind. Walk away if you need to.

Then congratulate yourself for having asserted your right to take care of yourself for a change.

( For drawing boundaries on drugs in the house, drug use in general etc – refer to Plan of Action section)