By Heidi R. Cherwony, PsyD

 

How often do you find yourself saying “yes,” when in fact you mean “no?” Many of you have spent your lives taking care of other people and their needs at the expense of your own. It may seem selfish to want to put yourself first and say no when you don’t feel like babysitting your neighbor’s kids or taking care of your sick aunt. So, you go out of your way for everyone else. I ask you, is it realistic to expect to have a better quality of life when you do not set aside time to take care of yourself first?

 

We say “yes” for many reasons such as wanting to belong, be accepted, fear of rejection, and as a means to overcompensate for our weight. What we are doing is teaching people that it is okay to take advantage of us-to call on us whenever they need a favor. There is no end in sight. Most of all, we are being untrue to ourselves. Integrity is your key ingredient to an improved quality of life. If you are ready to start living your own life, here are a few strategies to help make a difference: 

  1. On a weekly basis, set aside some time to plan for the following day’s events that require you to give of yourself. Reevaluate your goals and needs on a regular basis.
  2. Practice using the following acronym: HARD.

    Honesty: Be honest with others in accepting or rejecting an offer.
    Appropriate: Consider the appropriate time and place to express your needs.
    Respect: Show respect when asserting your needs.
    Direct: Be direct when stating what you want or need.

    By Allowing HARD to guide you, you are increasing the possibility of having your needs met and fulfilled. Remember, at first it is okay to say "let me get back to you on that" before you give a response one way or another.
  3. Realize that people are not mind readers. You have to tell them what you want and need. If you are crying and need a hug, ask for a hug. Some people prefer to be left alone when they are sad. Do not expect people close to you to know what you prefer at that time. Unless you have clearly verbalized what you need from others, expect that they are “out of the loop”.


Practicing these strategies is a step toward a healthier and happier you. Remember, you have the right to exercise boundaries with family and friends. They will respect you more for it!