Good morning, lovely readers! I’m linking up with Amanda on this Thursday to share a bit of what’s on my mind. I was prompted to write today’s post after an interaction that I had in a bar on Saturday night that got me thinking.
A longtime friend of mine (we’re talking womb buddies here) was in town for the evening. The two of us decided to get together for a quick drink so that we could do some catching up, and all was going swimmingly until we were approached by a well-intentioned man who was clearly trying to pick one or both of us up. He sort of invited himself into the conversation/our table, and offered to buy us a drink. My friend and I politely declined, and explained that we were just catching up for a bit and were probably going to leave soon. He was persistent and tried to talk us into another drink a few more times, but eventually returned to his table. I’m not a huge fan of being hit on in bars in general, but the guy seemed nice enough and his courage was commendable, so my friend and I shrugged it off and continued with our conversation.
A few minutes later, however, a server brought my friend and I each a drink and told us that the man had purchased them for us. At this point, I was irritated. When I tell you that I don’t want a drink, don’t buy me one anyway, dude. My friend and I discussed whether or not we would be rude by not drinking the drinks, and if we were obligated to at least drink some of them. Largely out of principle, I decided to not even touch mine. I don’t owe that man anything simply because he bought me a drink. The only person I owe anything to is myself. I owed myself a safe drive home, and the dignity of being able to decline a drink and be taken seriously.
If you are doing anything in your life solely to make another person comfortable or happy, you are not doing it for the right reasons. The concept of acting in our own best interest is one that has taken some time to sink in for me, but I feel as though I am finally beginning to understand it. Growing up, I was taught explicitly and implicitly that you should always put others first. Although I agree that doing things for other people is rewarding and important, it should never come at your own expense.
It seems as though a number of people with eating disorders consider themselves people-pleasers like myself. I know that I have spent most of my life doing anything and everything to make those around me comfortable, accommodating everybody else and making myself miserable. By doing that, we degrade ourselves. We teach ourselves that we are not as important as the other people around us. I have put myself in dangerous situations because I was afraid to speak up, I have spent countless hours doing things I didn’t want to do because I felt bad saying no, and I have carried on unhealthy relationships for far too long because I thought that I needed to turn the other cheek. And, unfortunately, I have put my body through hell not because I loved lettuce with vinegar on it and ten mile runs with nothing but diet yogurt as fuel, but to make myself aesthetically pleasing to others.
In recovery, I have had to learn the hard lesson that we only hurt ourselves by focusing solely on others’ happiness. When we choose to care for ourselves, we are not being selfish. We are acknowledging our value as beings who deserve respect and care. Just as I would never make somebody drink a drink that they did not want, I should not make myself drink a drink that I politely declined.
A couple of days after this bar interaction, I read one of my morning meditation books, The Language of Letting Go. The entry of the day was titled “Taking Care of Ourselves,” and the meditation ended with a timely reflection:
Today, I will set the limits I need to set. I will let go of my need to take care of other people’s feelings and instead take care of my own. I will give myself permission to take care of myself, knowing it is the best thing I can do for myself and others.
At first, it feels uncomfortable to set healthy boundaries for yourself when you are used to ignoring your needs. But, with practice, it becomes more comfortable as you realize that the only person you owe anything to is yourself, and you deserve the world.