January 15, 2016

We Don’t Owe Anyone Anything—But Here are 5 Responsibilities We Do Have.


It’s January, the month of resolutions and new beginnings.

We set new goals, even if they are the same as last year, as if last year is somehow cut off from this year.

I think we need to start bringing our successes forward to the new year. Instead of starting again, we need to be building on our victories.

We have learned lessons that we need to keep with us.

A few elephant journal articles, this month, have looked at this New Year resolution concept in different ways.

This January has been about focusing on what I learned in 2015 and putting it into practice in 2016. This means that I’m finally taking the list and doing it. I’m not stopping what I did in 2015, but I’m using it to step into 2016 and stretch beyond toward 2017.

I just ended a co-dependent romantic relationship which was nearly five years long…I may be a slow learner. And, if I am honest, most of my close friendships have had a solid, co-dependent, basis. I acknowledge my part in being the people-pleaser and that I certainly chased after that type of relationship.

I am 47 years old and still healing from that breakup. I may feel like a slow learner, but there was something that my mother said to me recently that stuck:

I don’t owe anyone anything.

It finally sunk in.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who could stand to heed this message.

Are you another person who is always there for people when they reach out, often, putting aside your own activities because you are needed?

Do you somehow find that when you have to say “no,” you always give an explanation, a justification?

When you see all the emails in your inbox, do you need to reply, even just to confirm its receipt, to every note?

When the chat box pings, do you need to check it “just in case” and then find time slips by as you offer attention to others?

Are you that shoulder to lean on, ready with hot tea and a hug, but find that folks seem to disappear leaving you wondering who is there for you?

Do you put on a brave face when inside you really need someone to listen to you?

Do you feel a sense of imbalance in your relationships; whether romantic, co-worker, friends, or even family?

Does this sounds like you?

If so, practice coming back to this:

You. Don’t. Owe. Anyone. Anything.

Remember when you were learning to read, or write, or do mathematics, and the teacher would give you “time to practice?” We learn lessons but somehow think that they will seamlessly blend into our behaviors. But any new skill requires practice.

When was the last time you practiced compassion and mindfulness specifically toward yourself?

This doesn’t mean we become someone who is self-centered or egotistical—it’s quite the opposite. As we go about our lives mindfully, we are only responsible for those actions, effects, and choices that we make.

While we offer compassion to anyone else, first, it is necessary to show compassion to ourselves.

Start with yourself. Look after yourself. Make your own life a priority.

You don’t owe anyone anything, and “No” is a complete answer.

It is such a freeing concept. It encompasses ways that will not only free you from the constant, overwhelming, need for approval and people pleasing, but will also allow those around us to focus back on themselves.

It will free us all from attachments that create co-dependency.

We need to ask ourselves what we are responsible for and what core beliefs we want to live by.

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1) My words

I don’t swear, which is a personal preference. When I talk to someone, I try to leave them feeling better about themselves. As the Dalai Lama guides, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

“Be mindful of your words. Once they are said they can only be forgiven, not forgotten.” ~ Anonymous

My intent is to practice a skill my Dad has mastered: he listens more than he speaks and, when he does speak, he gives careful thought to his words. This is mindful speech in action (not going to be easy for a hot headed, bubbly, person who is known for her rapid fire speech).

2) My actions

Every day we make decisions: what food we eat, where we shop, what we focus our attention on, where our money goes, what we do for a living, and how we contribute to the world.

I am going to practice making my actions speak for me. Mindfully make my choices and consciously decide where my focus will sit.

3) My thoughts

Think about this: “would you be friends with someone who talked to you the way you do to yourself?” Our thoughts create our reality. If that is too vague, then “talk to yourself the way you would want others to talk to you.”

The first part of this is Self talk, that voice inside that seems to be a repeating recording. I vow to let my Muse take centre stage and silence my Inner Critic.

When facing that full inbox or blinking chat window, I remind myself “you don’t owe anyone anything,” thus dispelling the urgent desire to be there for everyone else.

Once I take care of me, then I can reach out to others.

4) My responsibilities

We all have obligations—children and family to look after, pets to care for, and other ways in which we serve the community around us. If we make sure we do only what is our part, and let others take care of theirs, we show the greatest respect and support by respecting their ability and opportunity to learn their own lessons.

We don’t have to fix the world ourselves. Really.

5) My self care

I struggle here. I regularly put off doing things for myself, often to the point of ignoring my own needs, more often than I want to admit.

I care for myself first. If I take the time to look after myself then I develop a more solid base from which to reach out to others. No more skipped meals and activities I love doing.

I don’t owe anyone, anything. Neither do you.

I do need to be a mindful part of this world. So do you.

So, I challenge you: In 2016, practice what you have learned, build on your successes, and make sure that you have a solid, well looked after, Self to reach out from.





Author: Laura G. Williams

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Created by Author via Pixteller

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