Why won’t they just leave me alone?
That is what I ask myself when I am feeling overwhelmed by the demands of our large household and extended family – especially during pandemic induced togetherness. When I feel overwhelmed, it seems like they are being too demanding, always needing something from me. Being at the effect of other people feels awful and is a typical reaction to intense external demands; but, what I learned is that thinking the demands are the problem actually keeps me from recognizing the solution.
Though it is normal to feel at the effect of the demands being made of you, it doesn’t make sense to stay in that feeling for too long – because you are ceding power to others to create your experience for you – and that just doesn’t get you anywhere.
It is okay, actually quite essential, to allow yourself to take some time to have a little pity party and feel all your feelings. It IS hard to have everyone around, with constant questions and requests and needs, especially while you are trying to get your own work done.
Give yourself a break and let it be okay that it feels hard. Initially, there is some relief in the victimhood as you give a little space for and acceptance of what you are feeling and thinking. So let it flow and run its course; then after the initial wave passes and some relief is felt, it is time to leave the party and resume control of your experience.
The best way to resume control is to take your attention off of what others are doing TO you and redirect your attention to what YOU are doing. It is time to ask the question: “How did I create this experience for myself?” This is not to say that you should shift from blaming others to blaming yourself – because blame is blame and not constructive no matter where it is aimed.
First, look at the blame you are placing on them, the ones making the demands. Then, embrace the blame. You are probably thinking “wait, you just said blame is not constructive.”
To clarify, blaming is not constructive, but embracing and accepting that you were blaming is constructive. It is a way to shift into taking responsibility. You cannot not take responsibility for something you will not acknowledge or accept that you have done.
So give that blame a big old hug and say “Oh hello blame! Thanks for coming and showing me how I gave my power away. You can go now…. So, how did I create this?”
Second, answer the question, which, in this case is pretty easy to answer. It is all about boundaries. You either didn’t have any at all or the ones you had weren’t strong enough (i.e. being super flexible and infinitely available to your family’s needs and requests).
Another possibility is that you actually had healthy boundaries, but you did not honor them yourself. For example: you send a family text that says you will not be available during certain hours of the day and then still respond to texts, emails and calls from them.
Third, if you haven’t created a boundary around your availability, create one now. If you did have a boundary, just go back to honoring it – regardless of any disappointment or complaining you might get from anyone else.
This is just the beginning however. Boundaries and the way you have set and honor them (or not) is behavior you have been practicing throughout your life. So, like everyone else, you have a pretty well established pattern that you need to break. Unless you know WHY you created that pattern in the first place, you will just keep falling back into its familiar embrace.
The next question to ask yourself is “Why do I keep making myself available?” The answer comes back full circle to the original question “Why won’t they leave me alone?” This lament of victimhood is actually not an accurate reflection of what was really happening. A more accurate questions would have been “Why won’t I leave them alone?” Or “Why won’t I leave me alone?”
Here is an example of Self Exploration around these questions:
Why won’t I leave them alone
- I am unwilling to leave them alone in their discomfort.
- I don’t like to see others unhappy or disappointed and believe I should make them feel better.
- I make their needs more important than my own.
Why won’t I leave me alone?
- I am unwilling to sit in my own discomfort.
- I REALLY don’t like people being angry at me, unhappy with me, or disappointed in me.
- I expect myself to make others happy.
- I cannot abide the discomfort of not satisfying my own expectation of satisfying their expectations.
Both are predicated on a lie that anyone can MAKE another person happy or unhappy. You cannot control how others perceive or receive you. You can control how you perceive of yourself. Giving yourself a break means breaking the habit of seeing yourself as the one who SHOULD satisfy others needs and as the one who causes of their happiness or unhappiness. The key to shifting out of the no boundary/boundary-breaking pattern that was developed out of your old self perceptions, is to let go of the thoughts that support the pattern and do something different.
Let go of the idea that you CAN control another’s happiness and STOP telling yourself that you SHOULD.
Now just SIT IN YOUR OWN DISCOMFORT of not fixing it. That’s it! Practice it over and over again. Allow them to have their experience and you to have yours. You will feel much clearer and stronger and your boundaries will be much easier to keep.