by Shalini Raakendra
We humans are nothing if not creatures of habit. It’s the thing that makes us reliable, disciplined and helps us stay on track. On the other side of the spectrum however, habits are also what make us predictable, easy targets because of our susceptibility to patterns.
We all have patterns we follow diligently. Some are deliberate actions while others are a result of the subconscious mind. Taking the same route to work every day. Getting coffee at the same cafe. Walking with your head down so no one bothers you. Taking up every project that comes your way. Not being able to refuse someone’s requests.
Now, some of these patterns arise out of convenience. A familiar road gives you the comfort of knowing what to expect. The same coffee is a favourite. The other habits, the not so convenient ones such as one’s inability to refuse someone, arise from a certain comfort zone. It’s just like a familiar road. You know what to expect down the lane and you choose it, even if you don’t like where it leads. You’re always prepared for the worse, just in case. But have you ever stopped for a minute and thought about why you should go through a situation you probably don’t want to, but feel like you have to?
My weakness is that I hate to see people hurt because of me and I try to avoid it at all costs by going out of my way to make sure they are satisfied. It’s little things, like answering phone calls when I am in no mood for a conversation, or following an unreasonable parental curfew as a 27 year old just to avoid conflict.
I will be honest, it isn’t easy to break the pattern I have been upholding for a decade now. That said, I have very recently had a few eye opening revelations. It took a lot of internal battles to ask myself the following questions and to honestly answer them.
1. How is this attitude of mine helping me – am I gaining something from it?
Oh yes, a headache and eternal emotional exhaustion.
2. Why is it so important to me to make others happy?
It’s a pattern that comes from trauma. I feel responsible for others’ feelings. I feel like I’m useless if I can’t do the smallest thing, like being there for them. This is partly also because the fact that some people want me in their life surprises me.
3. Am I happy like this?
Oh hell, no!
4. Do I have a masochistic streak in me that makes me continue on this path even when I can see it’s destroying me?
Nope. It’s just familiar. A change means a chance for the loss of control, and that’s scary.
5. Is it not being more in control when things are going on my own terms rather than on the other individual’s necessities?
6. Do I want to change?
7. What am I going to do about it?
Prioritise myself. Hold myself accountable for my comfort and overall happiness. Because no one else can do it for me. If I want to be kind to others, I need to start by being kind to myself. They say charity begins at home for a reason. If I don’t take charge now, the only person to blame for my problems will be me, not them.
8. How am I going to do this?
I will begin by realising that I am in control of my actions but not in control of people’s reactions. That is entirely on them. Every relationship, be it personal or professional, is supposed to have a balance between the give and take in it and I refuse to be the gift that keeps on giving.
Well, asking the right questions was challenging enough and it took a few weeks of therapy for me to get to the right answers. What is far more gruelling is to put all of this knowledge into actions. Breaking the habit is still a struggle because there are moments where I relapse and fall back into the same old pattern, especially with loved ones. Nevertheless, I am going to keep at it and one day, this will become my new pattern. One day, I won’t feel cruel for putting myself first. One day, I’ll stop feeling guilty about standing up for myself.