Often, we feel bad when we don’t do things for others. We give explanations for why we cancelled on dinner and we justify our sadness, and we think it’s fine to meet up with friends whom we’ve outgrown or old lovers who broke our hearts just because of our history. But by doing this, we’re being unfair to ourselves.
You need to understand that you don’t owe anyone anything. You don’t owe people an explanation for why you had to cancel on plans because you wanted to spend some time alone. You don’t owe them a justification for why you ended up in tears on their big day when you were all having a good time and they thought you were happy but no one knew that you were quietly dying on the inside.
You don’t owe people an apology for caring too much or for always looking out for them or for loving them too much and being worried about them. You don’t owe people your time and effort, especially if they give none in return. You don’t owe long-lost friends who once made you feel bad for you who were a ‘let’s meet up for old time’s sake’ just because you’re no longer in the pit where they had left you. You don’t owe ex-lovers late night conversations when they feel lonely, even though they claim to the world that they’ve moved on and are happier now.
And you don’t owe people your time or your energy, especially if you’re the one who needs to heal. Just because you’re a good person doesn’t mean that you should go above and beyond for everyone you care about.
If you’re going through a hard time, then it is okay to say no to things. It is okay to say that you want to spend some time alone, even if it is out of character, even if it is to the people who always look out for you, even if it is to your partner, even if it is to your family. If you need the time, you take it.
Don’t feel bad or guilty, because putting yourself first is not a crime. Taking care of your mental and emotional health is your priority.
Those who care about you will understand that you need your time, and that you can’t come out because right now, nothing feels good. Those who love you will understand why you cancelled last minute, or why you ended up in tears on their special day, or why you no longer talk or smile or laugh as much as you used to. Those who value you will get why you do the things you do. They will understand that you’re struggling to cope, and that you need your space, but when you’re ready, you will reach out to them. Those who know you will not make you feel bad for changing during your journey to heal, because they will understand that sometimes things must get worse before they get better. Those who love you will never question your love or care for them, because they will just know.
You do things for people because you love and care for them, because life is better with them around, because they’ve always looked out for you and you appreciate that, because you want to be there for them. You don’t do things because you feel like you owe it to them.
You don’t throw a surprise birthday party for your best friend because you owe it to them. You don’t put your work aside and offer your shoulder for someone to cry on because you owe it to them. You don’t make plans or feel concerned about people because you owe it to them. You do it because you care. You do it because you want them to be happy. You do it because you love them. You do it because you want to and not because you must.
People who love you will always be there for you, even when they’re not there in person – they will always be there in spirit. People who love you will know that they do not owe you anything and you do not owe them anything. Instead, everything that you do for each other is out of mutual care and appreciation. People who love you will not make you feel bad about things that are out of your control. In fact, they will make you feel like everything you do for them is less, because that’s how much you would want to do for them, rather than need to.
People who love you will never make you feel like you owe them anything. In fact, they will understand that you need your space and as much time as necessary, and that is why you will love them.