Have you ever read the children’s book If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff? I really enjoyed this book as a child, but I think I enjoy it even more as an adult. I mean just look at this illustration by Felicia Bond: Don’t we all feel this way at some point? Someone just keeps asking more and more of us until we need 8 arms just to attempt holding everything together. I look at this book as a sort of fun and light-hearted reminder for adults. Oftentimes whether it’s our boss, a family member, a friend, acquaintance or stranger, when we give someone something (no matter how small) they are going to ask for something else. And if we don’t stay mindful it’s easy to get swept up in the demands. We want to please others, we feel we are doing something generous, we want to perform to the best of our ability, we want to produce results. Whatever the reason, we forget about ourselves, our personal needs, our boundaries, and we may even start to act in ways contrary to our values. It’s important to find the balance in life where we practice self care and live a life that aligns with our personal values. For most of us those values probably include things like hard work, being a good family member and helping others. But let’s not forget ourselves in all the hustle.
I have this problem a lot at work. One way I have learned to handle it is to decide ahead of time where my boundaries lie, and what my priorities are. During my time off, my priorities lie with my family and friends. I make a habit of speaking about my plans for my days off at work, and about whom I will spend that time with. That way if I have to turn down a request for overtime it’s not unexpected. I decide ahead of time if an activity I plan to engage in is something that I would postpone for work or if it is not negotiable. If it’s not negotiable then short of someone having a legitimate emergency (I’m talking hospital type emergency, not deadlines) I will say no to work and not feel guilty. What are some situations where you feel this way, and how do you handle it?