Updated: Jul 10
I spent the better part of my life feeling a sense of responsibility for the happiness and decisions of the people I was the closest to. Somehow, I felt that it was my fault if they weren’t happy, or if they made decisions that ended up hurting them. I would think that perhaps I didn’t do enough to help them, or I would wonder what I did wrong if they weren’t happy with me. I’m not exactly sure how that all came to be, although I do have some theories. There are many different factors that can create this pattern in a person. But I will never forget the day that I realized it wasn’t my responsibility. The thought actually popped into my head,
“I am not responsible for (his/her) decisions.”
What a revelation! It might not sound like a big deal, but it was in that very moment that I felt a sense of freedom I never experienced before. Yet I still had a lot to learn.
There were times when it seemed like no matter what I did for someone, no matter how kind I was to them, no matter how much love I showed to them, that I still experienced rejection, and they still didn’t show me the love and kindness I was seeking from them. I didn’t even realize I was seeking approval and looking for love. I just believed that it should be simple - if I was showing someone love and kindness, that they would show me love and kindness in return.
This, ultimately, was a lesson in boundaries and self love. I had to keep repeating the same difficult, painful lessons over and over, each one becoming more heartbreaking than the next, until I finally had it pounded into me hard enough to finally have it sink in.
WHAT I LEARNED:
It’s not about me. It has to do with what is going on in the other person’s life and inside of themselves that it what ultimately determines how they treat other people.
I am not responsible for other people’s decisions. Whatever decisions somebody makes is THEIR own responsibility - no one else’s.
I am not responsible for someone else’s happiness. We all have to make our own happiness. If someone hasn’t figured out how to do that for themselves, there is nothing I or anyone else can do for them will make them happy for the long term.
There’s a big difference between helping someone and enabling them. I acted on the instinct that when I saw a need, I did my best to fulfill it. The more I did, the more they needed. It never seemed to be enough. It exhausted all of my resources, but it was my own choice to let it get to that point. I know better now. Now that I know the difference, I am careful to not enable my children, or anyone else that I’m helping.
Don’t do something for someone with an expectation of getting anything in return. If you're going to do something for somebody, do it out of the kindness of your heart- not for love, approval, reciprocation, or recognition. Don't give to your own detriment.
I am responsible only for myself. In an attempt to fulfill everyone else's needs, I forgot about my own. I had neglected my own needs which ended up creating resentment that was misdirected at others.
I have the right to say no. It took me years to figure this one out. What a concept! I didn't realize that I was allowed to say, “I’m not able to do that at this time,” or “I don’t have the energy for that,” or “if I take care of this for you, it will take away from what I need to give to my children or myself,” or just simply, “No” without making any excuses for why I can’t or don’t want to. I’m still working on this one…
My children are at ages where they are learning to create their own happiness and not look to others (including me) for it, to love themselves enough to not have their souls crushed by rejection, to create their own entertainment, to build upon their own individual interests and learn independence. As the only parent, it’s been hard for me to loosen the reigns, but I’m working on that, too.
These things might be construed as selfish, but that's a misconception. It's about finding balance with healthy boundaries and self-love. It has always been my instinct to give, to serve, to love. I just needed to learn healthier ways of doing this.
We are always a work in progress. We are constantly learning. I’m still putting into practice the things that I think I’ve already figured out. It’s human to think you’ve gotten something down, only to realize you didn’t quite master it. Life will always keep us on our toes with its twists and turns. Having found more balance and peace within myself makes it possible to navigate those twists and turns with a bit more grace, and to help others through it, too.