Last week’s Tool For Tuesday was about helping others. But there’s a flip side. When does helping turn into enabling? When does saying yes too often turn into people-pleasing? And when you say yes, is it only because you’re scared to say no?
I got a note from a friend who wrote, “ I feel guilty taking care of myself…I feel guilty when I do things I need to do, or say no to what other people ask of me.”
First, let’s get over this guilt thing. Even Mother Theresa went home to pray by herself or take a nap or nibble on a snack. (Ever hear of that movie, “The Snacking Nun”? Oops! Sorry about that.)
I often feel guilty for saying no. I’m a Jewish mother. Of course, I feel guilty for not doing everything in the world for everybody else. But one of my favorite friends, who’s Catholic, told me, “Drop that guilt thing! My priest always tells me, ‘Guilt is a wasted emotion!’”
Oh, I pay attention to anyone in any faith who can teach me something. If you’ve done something wrong, you can make amends. If you haven’t done something wrong and just feel like you’ve disappointed someone, then turn off the guilt. Really. Each time you catch yourself feeling guilty, remind yourself that if you feel bad, you probably did the right thing!
Of course, it’s great, valuable, and spiritually uplifting to do good for others. But we have to draw the line. If we’re doing things for other people that they really need to learn to do for themselves, then we’ve got to stop. That includes making sure they pay their bills on time, don’t overspend, remember to take their eyeglasses to high school, finish work assignments, etc. If we keep jumping in to rescue others (under the guise of, “Oh, I am just so nice and good!”) then we perpetuate their cycle of helplessness. They’ll never figure it out. And we never figure it out, either. Maybe under the guise of being nice, we’re really being manipulative. Maybe we’re in need of being needed. Maybe we’re using that other person’s crises to avoid looking at our own stuff. Maybe we don’t want to sit with the discomfort that comes when we watch someone else struggle and possibly fail. (Hint: Don’t watch!)
We can be good but not too good.
If we think that being good to ourselves means buying another caramel frappe, another pair of shoes, another necklace that we don’t really need, then we’re mistaken. Being good to ourselves means taking positive, healthy, even spontaneous (jumping into a pile of leaves) steps to take care of ourselves.
We can be good to ourselves even if it means others will think we’re bad, selfish, mean, rotten. Sometimes the best way to know if we’re doing good for ourselves is if we feel bad. We’re stepping into unfamiliar territory and trying something new. And remember that we can’t be our authentic selves if we keep worrying what other people think about us.
Living our best chapter means stepping out of our comfort zone and trying new behavior. What we once thought of as good might not be all that. We need to check our motives. We need to ask ourselves if we’re over-doing this being good thing.
Tool for Tuesday: Sometimes it’s better to be bad than to be good.