It’s Not You, It’s ME!

12 December 2021

It is a warm Sunday morning in Durban, South Africa. Like most days, I woke up at 05:00am (despite being on holiday), drank some water, brushed my teeth and listened to a podcast. The view from our apartment is beautiful and refreshing, creating a conducive ambiance to blog. Why I decided to start writing so early in the day is strange, but I guess Kojo Baffoe’s idea of “The morning pages” where he hand writes at least three pages every morning to exercise his writing muscle caught my attention. So, I decided to try it (by blogging instead) and see if it will work for me as I prepare to write my second book (talk about ambition on 100%).

View from our apartment in Durban

It’s not you, it’s ME!

Gosh what a dramatic title for a blogpost, right?

Strangely, I have heard this line used many a time in television series and rom-com movies or in person, where relationships (romantic, family or friendships) no longer served the other person, but paid it no mind. I struggled to make sense of it for many years, but as I navigated life’s experiences, its meaning or relevance became clearer. And today is one such experience, sitting with a cup of instant coffee (terrible cup I must add) on the balcony of our apartment in Durban.

For me, there is so much beauty in travelling. Not only is it therapeutic, it also gives me the opportunity to think and work through my issues, away from the familiarity of home. I suppose the distance and time spent travelling to the destination somewhat provides a fresh perspective, allowing me to slow down, process and confront the thoughts and issues I have avoided dealing with, hoping they will magically go away.

I have had restless nights for a few weeks now, tossing and turning trying to process and make sense of my feelings around setting boundaries, prioritising and putting myself first. This has been one area of my life that I have been very unhappy about, where I willingly compromise my own needs or interests to help other people. While being self-less and helpful to others is important, the big mistake for me has been forgetting to put the oxygen mask on myself first so I can breathe, before offering assistance to other people.

I have “normalised” putting myself second, choosing to prioritise everyone else instead. I’ve had situations where people make requests which include providing resources such as equipment, money or time; requests I knew I’d be unable to fulfil and should decline politely and what did I do?

I said “yes” and compromised myself. I’ve agreed to attend events which I did not want to or lent money to family members and friends who promised to returned it within 3-5 days (knowing it won’t happen) and jeopardised my own debit orders bouncing, leaving a bad account record.

As if self sabotage was not enough, I’ve agreed to go to places or trips that I knew weren’t in my best interest – only to be unhappy and angry at myself for going. I’ve said “yes” to late-nights of drinking – drinking shots, when I knew I wanted to take care better care of my health. Looking at the last few months, I’ve over extended myself, giving a lot of myself even when my own cup was dry and empty. The consequences, sadly, have been detrimental, resulting in extreme burnout, depletion, resentment, anger and disappointment. And who is to blame?

It is not you, it is ME!

It’s been very easy to put the blame of how disappointed or angry I was on everyone else , which I am now learning is extremely unfair. It is unfair to continue blaming my family for my emotional outbursts whenever they make unrealistic demands or fail to honour the terms of our engagement (especially when it involves money). Instead of reacting, I needed to set boundaries and learn to say no without feeling guilty if I couldn’t help. I cannot continue to blame my friends for being unhappy in situations where I willingly agreed to be in, knowing they weren’t in my best interests.

Often times, I expected people to change who they are or behave in a certain way to serve my own interests, knowing that its both unrealistic and unfair for the other person. In hindsight I’ve consciously or unconsciously taught people how to treat or approach me – never really communicating how I ACTUALLY preferred to be treated. I further contributed by not setting boundaries or communicating them in an honest manner. In cases where communication was not clear, I unconsciously opened the door, created room for expectations and allowed people to make requests – WILLINGLY. And I use he word “willingly” intentionally, because most times I knew I should have declined, especially requests I knew I did not have the capacity to fulfil or shouldn’t have entertained in the first place; but I felt guilty.

As I grow older and continue to work on myself, an important lesson I’m learning is on self-love and boundaries, albeit difficult to accept. I cannot give from an empty cup, so I really need to pour into my own cup first. While it is important to love myself and have clearly communicated boundaries, the second lesson is to also STOP placing the blame on other people. I need to learn to be responsible and accountable for my decisions. It is not the responsibility of my family and friends to change who they are. Instead of expecting people to change, the onus is on me to decide if I am comfortable with the situation or not, then own my decision.

Am I right to have been angry and disappointed?

Well, maybe and will probably be angry again in the future because life happens. The difference however, is to remember that I am a consenting adult, who is old enough to “yes” or “no”. An adult who is responsible, sets boundaries and knows that he is accountable for my own happiness.

So, it’s not you, it’s Me!

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