Looking out for ourselves is often easier said than done. I know I’ve sometimes found it difficult to speak up, not overcommit or make sure my boundaries are respected.
Others won’t always speak up for us, so it’s really important that we’re able to do this ourselves. It might not always feel easy or natural, but it can make such a big difference to our wellbeing.
If you struggle with this or just need some reminders, these tips are for you:
1. It’s OK to say ‘no’
I think lots of us struggle to say ‘no’ sometimes. Whether it’s to reject a meet-up invitation or a request for help, it can be hard to feel like you’re disappointing others.
I do think it’s important to be selfless and caring and reliable… but not to the detriment of our own wellbeing. Sometimes we simply don’t have the time or energy to commit to others and that’s OK. We need to be able to recognise these moments and be honest with those around us. ‘No’ isn’t synonymous with selfishness. It’s often the most sensible and honest response. And it can still be communicated in a kind and loving way.
Even if we don’t have a ‘convincing’ explanation or we struggle to articulate why exactly we don’t want to do something, our ‘no’ is still valid and it’s enough.
2. Ask for help when needed
It’s so important that we speak up if we’re struggling in any way with anything. Our feelings are never invalid or too small and we shouldn’t ever feel guilty or like a nuisance when asking for help.
And sure, some people will be unhelpful and unsupportive when we reach out but we shouldn’t let the fear of being turned away stop us. As the saying goes, ‘If you do not ask, the answer is always no.’
Even if we’re unaware that a solution exists, it’s still worth asking. We might be able to start conversations and highlight the need for a solution to exist.
3. Accept help when it’s offered
Leading on from point number 2, if people offer to help because they recognise we’re in need, let’s gratefully accept it! We shouldn’t feel that declining help is the polite thing to do. It’s more unwise than anything else.
Chances are, if someone has expressed willingness to help, they will be happy to follow through.
4. Choose your friends carefully
Unsurprisingly, not everyone has our best interests at heart- even if they claim to be a friend. If someone only looks for ways they can gain from you and the relationship feels very ‘one-sided’, they might not be a genuine friend. You shouldn’t be the only one pouring into a relationship and you shouldn’t have to chase anyone either. If this has been the case, don’t be afraid to take a step back.
5. Be proactive
If we’re not OK with something, we should be prepared to act. Whether that involves finding the right people to speak to or researching online, we ought to be proactive in our approach. Let’s send those emails, make those phone calls, arrange those meetings or conversations and chase people up if needed. No one else is going to do it for us and sitting around being unhappy isn’t going to change anything.
When it comes to some things, especially our physical health, mental well-being and education, we shouldn’t sit back and wait around if we don’t have to.
It can be long and frustrating and sometimes it will be a case of picking our battles, but let’s know that we have the right to take action.
6. Remember that you can’t fix everything
We all have our limits and nobody can be expected to save anyone or fix all of their problems. It might seem obvious, but I know I sometimes still need a reminder. Of course we should help and support people, but I think we can untie ourselves from the responsibility of someone’s entire life. We can’t solve all of anyone’s problems and even if we could, that really isn’t our job.
I feel really strongly about this topic and there’s so much more that I could say. It’s something that I, along with my sisters and many of my friends, am still learning to navigate. I hope that wherever you are on your journey, you can grow in this too.