Saying NO To You, is saying YES to Me!
In my teens, I had a condition that was severe and had many symptoms. The condition was called: "the need to be liked, desperately”. It was interesting how my condition showed up in this very subtle and kind of slick way; so much so that I was unaware of it’s power in my life. It started out as me wanting to be polite, and make everyone think that I was this incredibly charming southern gentleman that would jump at the first opportunity to anticipate their needs. I would tire myself by being attentive to everyone’s preferences so that I could anticipate what they wanted to eat, where they wanted to go or what movie they wanted to see. Choosing myself second, always. It got to the point that I didn’t know what I liked or what I wanted. I was learning something that wasn’t healthy: how to say NO to myself and my hierarchy of needs, and say YES to everyone else’s needs.
Fast Forward to a situation in which a woman whom I dated for a short period of time kept pressuring me to spend time with her, even though our bond was short lived. The pain of a relationship not working between us really affected her in ways it honestly didn’t affect me. To be even more transparent, initially I had a high level of guilt about engaging with her because I knew that I did not want something long-term. I was mad at myself for starting an emotional dialogue when I had no future plans of sustaining it. So once I ended it, it was traumatic because this person was emotionally fragile and hurt, and I was affected as I never had any intentions of hurting her.
Eventually, that situation turned into a friendship. However, there was something very unsettling about it because I was getting nothing positive out of our interactions. This person constantly blamed me for not giving her what she wanted, and she always reminded me of the actions I displayed towards her in the past. Every moment I spent with her was a reminder of the old me, the people pleaser even at my own expense.
It wasn't until years later that I realized that I was essentially being guilted into a friendship all this time. And you know what? I allowed it; I thought it was my recompense. But one day after a particularly unsettling conversation, I woke up and said, "You know what? I am done saying NO to myself, and YES to everyone else”. I could no longer swim upstream into the abyss of someone else’s emotional desires for me. I decided to dock that boat, anchor it, and hop out, as it was time for me to journey onto the path that I truly desired. I had to make a choice, who was I going to prioritize?
I began asking myself questions, like:
-When have I ever chosen myself?
-When have I taken the time to give myself the experience that my heart, mind, body and soul earnestly request from me?
-Furthermore, the times when I did chose myself, and what I needed, how did that feel?
I began to hold onto the moments when I chose Ulysses - what I needed and preferred. And I remembered the feelings of bliss that came from those times I put myself first.
So, I had a conversation with this woman whom I felt was emotionally holding me hostage, and told her that I was really sorry for my previous actions, but that I could no longer let that constitute an unnatural bond that was unhealthy for the both of us. I assured her that I cared about her but that I would have to discontinue the friendship because I needed to be empowered in all of my relationships and associations, and they must represent a resounding YES. She wasn't happy, but she had no choice but to accept.
That YES to me, unfortunately meant NO to her, but I only get one shot at this life, and I must always take care of myself first - be the priority of my own life.
This Valentine's holiday my challenge is to "Choose Me”. Typically, this holiday has ushered in a lot of unnecessary tension in my life, especially being "single". I've asked myself: Am I saying YES to others and NO to my own needs in order to fulfill the cliche feelings I am pressured to feel on this day?
I heard a quote the other day that stated, “Your heart determines what you see”, which means if my heart is empty or depleted, my vision will be limited and partial. However, when I say YES to myself, it fills my heart and allows me to be really full, which is the birthplace of good decision making. And even when I choose to honor someone else’s desires, I still want to feel that that choice includes me and my desires as well.
Happy Valentine's Day and whether single or committed, make sure your YES includes you, first!
One thing I had no issue with when I was younger was taking risks. If I saw something I desired, I went after it with my whole heart and didn’t stop until I attained it. I had grown accustomed to pursuing many things with full force, achieving them, and then I started to get comfortable only pursuing goals that felt easy to achieve. I also started to get really complacent, until I was challenged by a few life events that shook me up in a good way and made me become hungry again- literally and figuratively!
I recently watched this amazing video of Denzel Washington speaking to a group of college graduates. He began the speech by saying, “Fall forward. Don’t create a plan to fall back on; fall forward and go after your dreams with full force." This really resonated with me.
When I was younger my father, a retired Military man, would tell me how much he believed in me as a musician, but he would also say that he didn’t want me to struggle financially. He felt that I should split my artistic efforts, and get a “real job” to fall back on when things get rough musically. It was a major point of contension in my relationship with him because it made me feel as though he did not really believe in me or my talent. Also, the idea of a “fall back” plan didn’t make sense to me because I felt like everyone I knew that fell into more “secure careers” were merely slaves to their jobs and were unhappy. At that point in my life, I told my father that I would rather struggle financially and live every moment doing what I love, than to fall back.
Listening to Denzel’s words reminded me of this declaration I made, and they inspired me to reevaluate my career pursuits. I knew that I wanted to create a new album with a new sound and a new band to tour with. I also really desired to step out more as a bandleader and create opportunities that reflected the artistic visions that I have for myself. Even with all these goals within reach, I was afraid, or better yet resting on my laurels, operating solely within my comfort zone. I also questioned if what I had to say, musically was relevant. I questioned the level of financial investment necessary to make this shift in my career possible. Ultimately, it was this burning sensation inside of me that I could no longer ignore that forced me to act. And I realized, going forward in pursuit of my goals was more comfortable than staying in a position of personal mediocrity. In my life, when I refuse to be my best, it’s almost like I am inviting a high level of mediocrity into my life, because to ignore truth is to fully embrace a lie. Listening to Denzel's speech helped encourage me to fall forward, because even if you fall down at times, falling is still forward movement. We may not always have a clue of what circumstances and destiny are mixing up in the pot of life, but the goal should be: to fall forward!
What’s been so wonderful is that once I decided to take that step, the universe began to surround me with opportunities that affirmed my choice, and continued to help me find new levels of comfort.
So the new theme and sound of my life is to Fall Forward.
Look out for the album this August!