Truth is Bigger Than Fear
Two women sit across from each other, one with exhaustion tugging violently at her lower lids. Her shoulders curl inwards toward her torso in defeat. “I just don’t know what to do anymore,” she confesses, broken. “Everything I do is for everyone else. I never have time for me. If anyone asks me to do anything for them, I do it–regardless if I have the time, energy, or ability. I just don’t want to let anyone down and they know that and take advantage of it.”
Her friend sips silently on a cup of coffee.
“I can’t help but be a people-pleaser,” the first woman continues, conquered by her own weakness. “I don’t know how to say, ‘No.'”
For the first time, her friend rests her cup down and speaks. Her words float across the table with kindness and conviction.
“I think you’re great at saying, ‘No.’ In fact, I think it’s all you say.” She chuckles when her friend’s face contorts in confusion. “When you say ‘yes’ to one thing, you say ‘no’ to everything else. So you say ‘no’ a lot more than you say ‘yes’.”
Once upon a time, I was the people-pleasing perfectionist who continuously added tasks to her ever-growing checklist. And, each day, I would strain over accomplishing each detail on the list. Regardless if it was realistic. Regardless if it was for someone else (in fact, those often shot straight to the top of the list). Regardless if that person even said “please”. I was the student who completed each portion of a group project when other members neglected their work. I was the errand-runner. I was (or at least tried to be) the dutiful, obedient daughter. Soon, I felt as though I was everyone’s servant, being used simply because they knew I could be.
Then that friend’s message struck me like Ali’s fists. I didn’t know which part was more beautiful: the grace or the sting. I realized I was upset and drained because I wasn’t living according to my values. In my heart I knew what was most important to me, but my actions proved how much I carelessly scrambled everything. So, since I liked lists so much, I prioritized my values and wrote them down:
- Work & Education
Seems simple, right?
Yet, before that list, I would have given an impossible and unrealistic ‘yes’ to everyone and everything. I realized, though, that by spreading myself so thinly, I wasn’t able to fully help anyone. With my values in line, it was much easier to distinguish where to place my efforts. Of course I still think it is important to help others (as you can see, people are on the top of my list). However, defining my values helps me recognize where to spend my time. For example, if my friend and my husband ask for my assistance at the same time, my husband takes priority. It makes sense since he comes first on the list. Or, if I’m faced with an issue between my current pregnancy and a task at work, I will choose to be there for my unborn baby. In the past, I would have discarded signals from my body telling me to slow down. Especially if there was something work-related I ‘needed’ to do. Now, I have a better idea of when to be there for whom (including the times when that ‘whom’ is me). Because of that, I can fully dive in and be present in every situation.
That includes being able to immerse myself fully in my God-sized dreams. You see, once I placed my faith at the top of my list, my life shifted. I won’t say it’s gotten easier, necessarily, but it has definitely become more fulfilling. First and foremost, I have committed to saying ‘yes’ to God, and in return, He has guided me along the path He created for me. In the past, I allowed my own fickle and fearsome heart to lead me. One day I’d decide to move left. The next, I’d realize that wasn’t right and decide to change course.
I never was good with direction.
So, not surprisingly, I always found myself right back where I started, more desperate and confused than ever. Now, however, when my heart beats nervously and doubts bounce around in my mind, I slip my quivering hand into His and continue walking. Toward my future. Toward my purpose. Toward my God-sized dream.