Self Care & Acceptance

Saying “No” to Family: Old Habits & New Paths

June 29, 2016

I still have a weird half-flutter and half-rock in my stomach. My latest practice saying “no” to my family was hours ago – and it went well. Sigh. Boundaries and self-honoring do get easier, but I’d prefer completely breezy in 1 step. I’ve been intentionally practicing asking for what I need, saying no when I mean no and yes when I mean yes for about a decade. Things are clearer and simpler for me now, but sometimes, not much easier than they were before – at least in the moment. Living life with my limits in tact and having taken care of myself is infinitely easier than the way I used to live it; let that be an encouragement to you. Now, for a little story.

I’m having a baby on Wednesday (unless he makes up his mind to come sooner), actually – at the time this will publish (it’s Monday now), I should be in process. (prayers appreciated!) So, of course, my family had known that June 29 was the intended day; that’s actually been planned for months. However, as we’ve gotten closer to the reality of things, more details have come into focus. We are fortunate to have various family members who want to come visit us in the hospital, and today my dad sent me a message asking when he and his wife could come on Wednesday. I explained that our plan was to not have visitors until Thursday, probably in the later part of the day. It’s important to us that our daughters are the first ones to come meet the newest member of our family, and between timing of delivery, their eating and sleeping schedules, the “quiet hours” scheduled by the hospital and the timing in play for those blessed souls helping care for our girls, we’re anticipating their first visit will be Thursday morning. So, as it turns out, this is not great timing for my dad. He’s got another commitment on Thursday afternoon and was really planning to come Wednesday.

Let me admit this to you: I was tempted to cave. My dad is great at honoring my limits, incredibly reasonable and truly desires to care for us in a way that works for well for us – AND it made my guts wrinkle up to have to tell him no. He – a man who is many years away from being knee-deep in the process of delivering new babies – asked me to tell him the time he could come on Thursday morning instead. Ugh. Given the timing of his other commitment (he’s a busy and important guy, so his commitment is not one easily rearranged), Thursday morning is also not a likely option. I seriously considered telling him I’d try to figure out how to get the girls to the hospital earlier so that he could come when he wanted to come… all this without even a request to do so or any pressure from him. This is what it looks like to live with a long-ingrained habit of people pleasing. At least this is what it looks like for me.

I gave my dad a refresher on the unpredictability of child birth (we thought our 2nd daughter would be born by noon the day I went into labor, but instead didn’t come until after midnight!), the fact that there are a lot of shifting elements in play to figuring out timing just for our young daughters and told him that we’d promise to be good communicators. It is important to us that he get to meet his grandson, and we want to help make that happen – but, for now, without trading the things that we need to take care of ourselves, the best I can do is to acknowledge that I’m not going to be able to accommodate his request and to promise to be available to communicate about it all as we play it by ear.

As I said, my dad is a very reasonable guy and not at all prone to pushing my boundaries or limits. His response was “Okay, will play it by ear.” See? Not a lot of pressure in that response, huh? But the pressure I felt was old and learned through years of indoctrination from various other sources. It’s my responsibility to remind myself I don’t have to comply with that people-pleasing and that it is my true right and responsibility to care for myself and protect my own limits. And some of that just requires repetition in my head.

After feeling shaky for a couple hours, I remembered that I needed some Truth to focus my mind and heart. The Spirit brought Proverbs 29:25 to my mind: “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” (ESV) Even (or especially) when I’m the only one telling myself that I must please one of my fellow man (people pleasing!), I need this reminder. He is my one audience and focusing my self on loving and pleasing Him matters most. Ahhh. Relief. My anxiety and that yucky stomach feeling started to dissipate immediately. The truth heals and restores. My living and active help in all things.

So, today I was reminded that sometimes the drive to please others and the feeling of anxiety in saying no – to my dad of all people – is still alive and well in me. I also learned that I can do it, and no one broke. Not even me. And when my emotions got stirred up and squirmy, the Truth of God brought me back to the center, back to reality… and then I had the rest of my day. I am learning and walking it out just like the rest of us, but at least we’re learning and walking, right? Keep on keepin’ on, friends. The journey is the destination.

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  • Larissa July 2, 2016 at 1:57 am

    Hi Marina, I found you via Hope*Writers 🙂

    This is so great. The pressure to please people at whatever cost runs deep in me too. How wonderful when God gives us courage to live in truth!

    • Marina July 2, 2016 at 3:00 am

      Thanks Larissa! Welcome to Accordant Life!