It’s kind of a Catch 22. The better you are at your job, the bigger your family, and the more volunteer groups you belong to, the more people expect your help. And sometimes they don’t really ask. They assume you will help them, and are a little hurt or offended when you don’t.
If you rely a lot on other people’s opinions, then it is hard to turn people down, because you think you need their approval. Or if you care deeply about the people, you may truly want to always be there for them, to lend your support.
But the truth is, you cannot be there for everybody. And you don’t need to deal with their stress on top of your own.
So you may find yourself making excuses. Gosh, you would really love to, but you are already booked, or you have a conflict, or you have to wash your hair. Whatever you think they will accept without hurting their feelings. But chances are that after you make excuses, you feel the stress of guilt, not only from turning them down, but also for the little white lie you told to get out of doing whatever it was.
Back in 1969, composer and poet Mason Williams wrote, “Someday you’ll learn that ‘I don’t want to’ is the world’s greatest reason.” At first glance that might seem a little harsh. But as I have finally gotten to “someday,” I understand how right he was.
Of course, you may phrase what you want and don’t want a little differently. But when you are dealing with stress, just telling the truth can lift a lot of weight off your shoulders. And being consistently honest saves you from built up resentment that can blow when you least expect it.
Let’s say you have a deadline at work, your daughter just said she needs a costume for a school play, and someone calls asking you to bake a pie for a bake sale. If you are stressed you might blurt out, “I made a pie once and I don’t need to do it again.” I did, and it wasn’t pretty.
Instead, you could hire someone else to make the costume, and calmly explain that pies are just not your thing, but you will be glad to help with some future non-baking project.
Stop Trying to Have Someone Else’s Idea of Fun.
I’m sure you’ve heard it. “You’ve got to come, it’ll be fun.” And so you go to some party or event, only to be totally miserable, angry at yourself for coming, and ashamed to exit. By the time you leave, your stress level is off the charts.
Instead, value your own opinion. Admit when you don’t enjoy certain activities, and find time with friends or family doing things you all enjoy.
If your partner or friend won’t go somewhere without you, the occasional bout of boredom won’t kill you. If you have made a habit of honesty about trivial things, than you won’t feel so stressed, and you can be generous with your time when it really matters to those you love.