First of all let me start by saying there is nothing wrong with loyalty. Nor, whilst I’m on, is there anything wrong with making compromises for those you care deeply about.
However, what I’m talking about is false loyalty. The type of loyalty we attach to either someone who neither has earned or deserves it; or that doesn’t want it or need it.
It may not be talked about as often, however this is one of the most common mindset/self sabotage issues I see. And it’s rare to find someone who is completely immune.
Have you ever not done something you need to do? Not made a decision you need to make? Or refrained for asking for something you need? Because of a person or people in your life, who effectively, whether you framed it that way or not at the time (chances are not), you decided that they were more important than you.
Think about that for a minute.
Because when you when you make a decision, take an action, or don’t, based on someones else feelings, opinions, or needs. You are inadvertently making a decision that when it comes to this matter, their needs are more important than yours.
Again, please don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not saying that’s wrong. I’m just laying out what’s happening. Only you can decide in any situation if that’s the right or wrong thing to do.
This is also not about the person. In some cases it can be obvious that a person has attached false loyalties to a person, for example feeling bad leaving a workplace that has shown nothing but disregard for them or their feelings (happens all the time by the way - if that’s you don’t beat yourself up, get support). In other cases it’s much more complex. Can you attach false loyalties to your own children? I believe you can, and I believe a lot of us do every day.
So how can you break this pattern and create a better system of loyalty based decision making in your life?
The truth is there is no hard and fast rules. But maybe next time try and think about the following…
Are you putting too much emphasis on your own importance?
We can sometimes almost become a little narcissistic in our view of our own role in a situation.
‘If I don’t attend my daughters swimming lessons every week she won’t be able to go!’ Is that true? or can someone else take her and easily fulfil your role as taxi driver?
‘If I say no to my boss about that project it’s going to ruin their plans and put us off target.’ Is that true? Or can someone else in the team complete the project?
Are you adding unnecessary layers of emotion to the situation?
‘If I don’t attend my daughters swimming lessons she’ll think I don’t love her as much?’ Is that true? Or are you adding unnecessary layers of emotion? What about the kid whose mum can’t take them because she’s Police Officer and works evenings? Do you think that kid are or feel less loved?
‘If I say no to my boss, she’ll think…[insert whatever long convoluted story you’ve told yourself about what she will think, based on layers of emotion…’ Is that true? Or if you explain the reasonable and perfectly acceptable reasons you need to turn down the project will she see that perhaps you were not the ideal person to ask in the first place?
Finally, does it matter?
This is the hardest one to master, and often the one most likely to trip us up, even when we’ve naturally considered the other two. Why? Because it’s the one that makes us feel most uncomfortable.
The truth is, maybe if you ask grandma to start taking her to lessons, because you are going to start a yoga class at that time (for the sake of your own sanity!) your daughter will be in a grump.
But does it matter? You know (and so does she by the way) that your love is based on so much more than your taxi service and undivided attention.
Maybe, just maybe, it will do your daughter some good to learn that your needs matter as well, and that undivided attention by one party is not the basis of a mutual, respect based, loving relationship?!
The truth is also that maybe your boss won’t be understanding. Maybe she’s not a good boss! Maybe she puts her needs over your’s and won’t care that you don’t have time for the project, she’s decided you’re going to be the one to do it. Maybe if you say no, she’ll be unpleasant and lack understanding.
Again, seriously, does it matter? If a person who lacks respect and doesn’t treat you appropriately is annoyed at you for a reasonable request, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. In fact maybe it’s about time said boss learned you’re not a door mat and that you’re getting assertive now. Maybe it’s more important that you do say no to the project to preserve your own self love, rather than putting her needs ahead of yours.
Remember, when you make decisions this way, you have to accept that you are making the decision that the other persons need is more important than you and yours.
Only you know the details of your situation. Maybe your daughter is nervous about swimming and had an accident once in the water, with that information you know that this is the one thing you do need to be there for until she gains her confidence. That’s why only you can make the decision, and feel comfortable with it.
All I ask is that is you don’t feel comfortable with it, or are struggling the consequences of it, that you at least take the time to think about whether it’s the right choice for you.
I’m not saying any of this is easy. Trust me we all do it. And from time to time, with small things, it may not make any difference or do much harm. But if it’s contributing to keeping you stuck in a life you don’t love, or patterns of behaviour that are damaging your heart or self esteem, then you need to think again. And you need to get some support to make the decisions you need and reset the boundaries of your relationships.
Because that’s what this really comes down to. When you set your boundaries too low and loose, you set yourself up for living a life on everyone else agenda, which is not only exhausting, it can be damaging.
Trust me if you don’t trust yourself, you’re more important than that.
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