The Cost of Peace withOUT You
Do you often sacrifice your own dreams and well-being in order to not make other people mad? What's the true cost of that few moments of comfort?Recently, a client told me that she wanted to make a big change in her life. She has prepared financially and has no doubts about this move. However, her husband has reservations. So, in order to “keep the peace within the household,” she has set aside what she wants to do what he wants her to do.
I’ve been there. Haven’t you? I have set aside my professional goals, personal health, and my own logic in favor of not making someone else mad. This clearly shows a major problem in self-preservation, however.
Others’ happiness and well-being becomes more important than my own when I do that. By biting my tongue, forgoing my goals and dreams, or even ignoring my own body’s cues about my health just to keep those around me comfortable, I am saying that their needs take precedence.
Now, sometimes, that’s true. When my kids were little and totally dependent on me for their basic needs, regardless of whether I wanted to, I had an obligation to provide for their needs. I didn’t always relish those 2 am feedings, but that was an example of when my wants took second place. But even that has a limit when we sacrifice our health and peace for the wants of our kids and not needs.
I asked my client, “What’s the thing flight attendants tell you when you get on a plane about those airbags that fall from the ceiling in the event of an emergency?”
At first, she couldn’t remember. And then, even though we were talking by phone, I could see the light come on when she realized what I was talking about.
“They say to put the mask on yourself before putting it on anyone else because if I am not taken care of, then I can’t take care of anyone else,” she said excitedly.
Bingo. I just lead clients to these realizations, but it’s really so easy once we get there.
And, I know it’s an over-used, cheesy analogy, but it’s literally true. When the plane is in trouble, if you are passed out from hypoxia, even if you did manage to get that mask on your child first, now your child has to watch as you suffocate and will have to manage alone when the plane crashes. Way to go, Mom. Literally, the 5 seconds it would have taken you to put that mask on yourself first not only saves your life, but enables you to care for your child during and after the crisis is over.
Our lives last much longer than a plane emergency. Yet, every day in little ways, and many times in major ways, we set aside our own needs to keep the peace. We trade years of happiness for five minutes of unease that would exist if someone got mad. And, so what if someone does get mad? Will that person stay mad? If so, then that person has larger problems than you anyway, and would likely have found a reason to get mad no matter what you do. Am I right?
Once my client realized that she had to help herself in order to be able to help anyone else, I explained to her that when she was biting her tongue and giving in to her husband’s objections, she was keeping peace within her household, but that peace was withOUT her. Normally, we use that word “without” to mean “in the absence of”. But, in this case, I mean that she is present, but the peace was around her, not in her. Yes, her daughter and husband might be happy, but she was not. So, the peace didn’t include everyone in her household. Not only is that not healthy, but it isn’t fair to her.
It also isn’t fair to her husband. She was assuming that he (1) couldn’t handle her dissent, and (2) was so unreasonable that he wouldn’t see her perspective and want her to be happy.
If he wants to get mad that she insists on doing what she really needs to do for her health and well-being, that’s his right. But that’s not her responsibility. She wasn’t attacking him or purposefully hurting him. And she her decision would only positively affect her family, not hurt them. It’s just that their habit has been for him to make the decisions and for her to abide by them even though doing so sometimes brought her suffering.
And, that, my friends, is not true peace. It’s fake because it only includes part of the household. When one or more parties in a relationship is forgoing happiness and well-being for the sake of the others, the peace is only superficial and will eventually crumble, causing an even larger problem when it finally blows wide open.
Speak your peace. Allow others to have their reactions to it, but don’t sacrifice your health, well-being, or happiness for a few moments of discomfort. Peace that is withOUT you is not the same as peace within you. And you are the only YOU you can control.