‘I have to go to a family event this weekend. I would rather stay at home, but I don’t have a choice.’
How often have you heard someone say something like that? How often have you yourself actually said it?
When we think like that, what we’re really saying is ‘I don’t want to confront a situation where I will feel guilty for meeting my own need’.
You see, there is ALWAYS choice.
In his amazing book ‘Mans Search for Meaning’, Viktor Fankl writes about his harrowing experience of being in Nazi Germany, Auschwitz, and other concentration camps.
He says this:
‘Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.’
Even as people went to their known deaths, he observed a choice in the way they met that.
We always have choice. When we deny our choice, we disempower ourselves, and deny our need and authenticity. Sometimes we don’t want to make the difficult choice, because we perceive the cost of it to be high, and in order to avoid that truth, we deny there is choice in it.
Ultimately though, we are the ones that pay the price, whether emotional, physical or financial, it is us who suffers when we don’t meet our needs.
Being honest about the choices we have and making peace with the ones we take allows us to live a more genuine life, one that empowers us, and allows us to set boundaries. It prevents anxiety, overwhelm, exhaustion from meeting everyone else’s needs above our own.
A while ago I wrote about how ‘No’ is a full sentence. How we do not have to justify the choices we make. If you say no to someone and they are cross about it, or they change the way they view you, that is their issue, not yours.
Emotionally healthy, boundaried people will not need you to explain why your need is more important than theirs. They will accept your answer without question, and allow you to put yourself first as and when you need to. They will not attempt to guilt you, bribe you, coerce you or manipulate you into meeting their needs, and they will not hold it against you.
Sometimes making choices is hard, but perhaps it is easier to ask yourself
- Why do I HAVE to do this?
- What is the cost to me?
- What is it about this relationship that demands I ignore my own needs?
- Is that okay with me?
Often when we are little we haven’t really been given the chance to exert our will or choose for ourselves, so it’s not something that comes naturally. Over time however with practice, you will find it gets easier.
The next time someone asks you to do something and you feel a little tug of disappointment, dread or fear, pause and reflect briefly. If you need more time to decide, ask for it. Because as Frankl also says:
‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.’
Go out and grow! Take care,