Monday, December 19, 2016

Limitless Limits

At the start of this year, my goal was to not take any actions or inactions based on guilt:

I made it 267 days mostly following my goal, but more on that later.

For now, I want to talk about a specific issue of *why* I often did things out of guilt in the past, and I want to focus on correcting that this year.

In 2017, I am going to focus on having limitless limits. By that I mean, I am not going to place any limits on the number of limits or boundaries that I'm "allowed" to have, the number of things I can say that I don't like, or the number of things that I can say no to. The number of personal limits I can have in terms of what I am willing and unwilling to do is unlimited.

A big part of the reason I went along with things I didn't want to do prior to 2016 (mainly prior to 2015) was that I was acting as if there was some arbitrary limit on the number of times I was "allowed" to say no to things that I didn't want to do. For example, I remember one time that I agreed to get pizza and see a movie with my ex boyfriend and his parents when I really did not want to do that at all. My reasoning for going (and I was well-aware of this at the time, but did it anyway) was that I felt obligated to spend a certain amount of time with his family, even though I did not enjoy spending time with them. I felt like I had to say yes to at least some of the invitations, and pizza and a movie was acceptable. As much as I didn't want to go, I figured the next invitation could be to go camping or kayaking or to some fair that lasts all day long where I'd be stuck with them or to a huge reunion with lots of people - things that would really, really suck, and that if they invited me to something I could tolerate, like pizza and a movie - even though I don't eat any of the same kinds of pizza that they eat and I had no interest in the movie they picked and would be sleeping through it - it just wasn't as bad as the other possibilities. I felt like going to this pizza and a movie event would make it more acceptable to say no to things that were really not okay, when the reality is that I should have been able to say no as often as I wanted to.

I was acting as if I had a limited number of "No" tickets in my pockets and that using one meant I couldn't get it back, now I had fewer tickets and fewer chances to say no. If you have a limited number of times that you can say no, you end up saying yes to a lot of things that you really don't want to do because you figure something worse could always come along.

When I was a first-year student, part of our required curriculum was that we had to attend four "wellness seminars" during the school year, which were talks on campus about various topics. These talks were open to the whole school and we could go to as many as we wanted, but we were required to attend at least four. I think there were like ten or twelve events that counted as wellness seminars.

I went to the first four wellness seminars that I was able to go to. All of my classmates didn't take this approach. A lot of them looked at the list and thought about which topics interested them, and they would decide what to do based on what they liked. But since four seminars were required, it seemed to risky for me to wait and go to the ones later in the year. What if I was sick one of the days? What if I wasn't free during the time of the seminar because I had a different schedule in the second semester? What if there was something fun going on that I would have to miss out on to go to the seminar? What if I was just too busy at the time and it would be really hard on me to squeeze the seminar in? There were just too many variables to plan on attending a seminar much later in the year. So whenever a seminar came up that it wasn't a huge burden for me to attend, I attended it, until the requirement was met.

Being required to go to those seminars was sort of like having a limited number of No's. Like, if there are ten seminars and you have to go to four, then you only have six times that you can say, "No, I don't feel like going." And that's how I was behaving about a lot of things prior to 2016:

-Doing things I was never willing to do but felt obligated to do, like OT at work
-Spending time with people that I did not enjoy spending time with, like my ex boyfriend's family and some of his friends.
-Doing activities that I don't want to do in order to spend time with people I like, like when I went on that camping trip and went to drinking-based parties and events where I didn't know anyone and a number of other things.
-Acting less upset than I was about a lot of things because I felt like I had a limited number of times I could be really upset.

Going forward, I am not playing this game of imaginary "No" tickets. Going forward, there will be no limits on the number of things that I say no to.

Going forward, my limits are limitless.

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