For as long as I remember, I have been a “Yes” person.
You know me well, dear reader; I am the one with my hand up, going “Pick me, pick me!” whilst shacking it so vividly I can almost feel it coming out of my shoulder cap.
I have always done more, agreed to more, taken on more-without giving myself a single thought.
It came at a huge cost-sleepless nights, feeling overworked, exhausted and terribly unhappy.
But I did always get it done.
And then I swiftly moved onto the next thing, blindly not only agreeing to take on more but asking for more; this, in my mind, proved just how capable, hardworking and available I was.
After all-this is how I defined myself-through my ability to give, do, achieve.
As an adult survivor of childhood abuse, “Doing it all” has been my first, middle and last name for the last few decades.
Unhealed childhood trauma manifests itself through people pleasing, external validation, de-prioritising own needs, the constant need to prove oneself, living on high alert-to name but a few.
These adapted behaviours turn into embedded ways of being and before you know it, they define you completely.
“It’s just who I am” tends to be a very common way of describing one self-and rightly so. It is after all, who you truly believe you are.
What I have learnt, through my years of training as a therapist, is that all the above has been completely useful and needed at a certain point in my life.
It kept me safe-It protected me-and therefore it has been an essential structure of my existence.
But right now-I am no longer in that place.
If that was my “home” -I have moved out a long time ago.
Yes, I am still fond of it-of course I am.
But I no longer live there.
And I need to pay attention to my current “home” and tend to its needs.
How does one do that, I hear you ask?
Well, not smoothly-its messy, difficult, hurtful-not much different than being a “Yes” person really (that’s scope for many more blogs though J )
But little by little, you learn to value yourself a bit more.
In the beginning, it feels REALLY uncomfortable and your instinct to retreat to what feels familiar is overwhelming.
But somehow, when you pull through once, you pull through again; and again, and again.
And that initial uncomfortable feeling turns into a soothing one in time; it is just like exercising your muscles-difficult in the beginning but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Learning to value yourself is a huge exercise-forget marathons, I am talking about endless back-to-back Ultras.
Professional boundaries feel important, and you learn the language to say-Yes or No, according to what is right for yourself, without feeling tormented by your decision.
You absolutely can say No to unpaid opportunities, without feeling guilty, without worrying that you might be offending someone and without self-sabotaging your own well-being.
And one day, just like that, you see yourself and your healthy boundaries as self-protectors-and you smile, because you know you have arrived in a healthier place.
At least for now…