Too often we are guilty of overextending ourselves and effectively ‘spreading ourselves too thin’ when it comes to juggling the various pillars of life. If you were raised well, you will conduct yourself with decorum and the desire to do right by those around you. You will possess a set of guiding principles (be they religious or fundamental ethics) that determine how you treat others. Rarely are we taught the power of ‘No’ – when put into context and expressed respectfully, a simple ‘no’ can bring about balance and serenity in your life.
Our teachers, parents and elders have instilled the importance of putting ourselves second to all else; to put yourself first is often considered selfish or even egocentric. As we grow and experience life, we inevitably learn that accepting all the demands placed upon us is not feasible, necessary or healthy for our peace-of-mind.
Managing the expectations of others is a core skill we develop over time, and often struggle with for fear of being judged or letting others down. Take heed; knowing where to draw a line in the sand to protect your own wellbeing is challenging and will require you to be mindful of what you really want while finding a respectful way to articulate these needs. Having boundaries in life is critical to living a balanced and happy life.
The power of (a polite, respectful and dignified) ‘No’ will liberate you from the emotional torment of guilt and allow you to live a more balanced life. So how do you do it? Let’s consider some common situations from each of the five pillars of life:
Health – “Your no-alcohol detox has been going on for 6 weeks now, come on, have a drink with us!” – your personal choices for detoxing are yours and yours alone. If you have made a commitment to a health goal, stick it out even when tempted to cheat. A simple “Not today guys!” will suffice.
Family – “My car is currently at the garage being fixed after a minor incident with a bajaj; can I borrow yours for a couple of days?” – a tough request to decline, but clearly your family member is capable of denting your car too, which would put strain on your relationship. If you have time, offer to give them a lift to work or help them sign up on Uber!
Work – “I know it’s your birthday, but I’m going to need you to work late tonight.” – You know that your job will occasionally demand you to work beyond the stipulated hours but in this instance your entire family and friends are waiting to celebrate with you. You could (1) offer to come in early the next day (2) compromise by staying an extra hour on the condition you can get to your party at 7pm or (3) find a colleague who would be willing to step in for you on the condition you return the favour for them in future.
Money – “I know it’s a bad time financially for you, but my sister is getting married next weekend and we are counting on you to contribute towards the wedding.” – you just paid school fees for your kids and your rent is due in a couple of weeks; financially you are tight this month and have no reason to feel guilty about not being able to contribute. If it is a close friend offer to give a little something the following month.
Friends – “Everyone is going to be there, you’re definitely going to miss out!” – You’ve had an insane week at work and feel exhausted; the last thing you feel like doing is partying, irrespective of who will be there. That’s ok; you’re too old to be driven by peer pressure anyway. Think about how satisfied you will be relaxing at home and waking up fresh the next day as your friends nurse a hangover.
By no means am I condoning a self-centered existence, but rather challenging you to maintain balance and be mindful of your needs. A mere push in the wrong direction can tip the scales out of your favour and set you tumbling into a world of fatigue, isolation and discontent. And then what use would you be?