Saturday Serenity: How Perceived Obligations Can Squash Your Joy

[photo courtesy of]

I had an interesting conversation the other day.  It was with a young lady who was probably half my age.  The conversation was intriguing to me for much more than the words we exchanged.  I actually learned something about myself from it.

It all began when the young woman shared with me the trials and tribulations in her life of what she regarded as, “necessary obligations”.  I gleaned from her words that she felt a massive duty to accommodate everyone and everything in her life.  I posed the following question to my young friend:

“What if you said, ‘no’ to some of these people and situations?” The look I received in exchange for my words was nothing less than shock (perhaps even horror) at the thought of what I had suggested.  I think she thought I was either crazy or that I had clearly experienced a momentary lapse of reason right in front of her.

“Yeah, that would NEVER happen,” was the response I heard.  She reasoned that unless she wanted to make everyone in her life, “pissed off  forever” at her, there would be no way to ‘ever’ change any of it.  The young lady further remarked that even though she found all of her ‘obligations’ stressful beyond belief, it would be better fulfilling them than actually dealing with the fallout of not doing what her colleagues, boyfriend, and neighbor wanted her to do.

[photo courtesy of]

I was feeling exhausted just listening to the list of ‘obligatories’ she mentioned, thinking that the amount of energy it would take to complete each and every one of these activities would challenge even the heartiest of those folks who seem to possess unlimited energy.

From an after-work cooking class, to helping a neighbor with some packing, this girl had filled her every waking moment with ‘stuff’ she felt she had to do.  It dawned on me that each and every ‘obligation’ she made was based solely on the fact that she didn’t say “no” to those things she didn’t really want to do.  Conversely, she didn’t seem to consider giving more time and energy to the things that made her happy. Perhaps she didn’t even know what it was that made her happy.  Energy and time:  think about these as being deposited in a bank; on any given day we have a certain number of hours and energy in that bank.  If the bank is depleted with having spent your hours and energy on stuff you didn’t want to do anyway, that doesn’t leave much for having a life to call your ‘own’, does it?

From all of this new-found information, I had a ‘ta da’ moment.  The difference between living an authentic life, being true to yourself (or not) comes down to two words:  YES or NO.  The choice in order to please everyone else but yourself would entail a lot of yeses, and not that many in the ‘no’ category.  Placing them in two columns might look something like this:

YES Column – I will do the things you ask of me and feel those things to be obligations that I must fulfill = having my life become everything everyone else wants; or

NO Column – I will do the things that bring me happiness and joy.  I will help you along the way, but if I choose NOT to join an art class to learn how to paint 13th century window coverings = being true to myself with no self-disparaging remarks.

[photo courtesy of]

After my conversation with this young person, I felt sad for her but at the same time enlightened for myself.  I wondered if it had to do with age and experience.  No matter what it was, I had a terrific sense of calmness, no longer burdened by the sense of obligatory activities I once knew as part of my own, personal repertoire of, “must dos”.

I found a quote by Henry David Thoreau that I thought would be quite fitting for keeping your true self fed with the freedom of choices to experience a happy path:

I learned this, at least, by my experiment:
that if one advances confidently in the
direction of his dreams, and endeavors
to live the life which he has imagined,
he will meet with a success
unexpected in common hours.

Now I’m off to find out about that 13th century window coverings art class; just kidding (14th century, actually)! *teasing*

  13 comments for “Saturday Serenity: How Perceived Obligations Can Squash Your Joy

  1. July 29, 2017 at 10:34 pm

    I will fully admit to not being great at saying no- I hate feeling as though I’ve let someone down. However, I’m getting better at making that call, as the years slowly pass!! Also, I would totally take that 13th century window covering class 🤓

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 29, 2017 at 10:59 pm

      Well that is precisely what I mean my dear! As the years slowly pass, we realize it’s okay to say no! Haha Well as a historian, I’m not surprised you’d like to take that course! Do it!! 😊 Cher xo


  2. July 29, 2017 at 11:24 pm

    That’s the only way to live. “No,” is a great word.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 29, 2017 at 11:28 pm

      I sure do agree, my fellow Chicagoan! Cher xo


  3. July 30, 2017 at 3:40 am

    Be your self Do not harm an other. But you can say no, mostly. Otherwise I should walk on my toes. But when I am not honest, fear can be than the reason, is it not good for my self confidence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 30, 2017 at 3:29 pm

      I know it is hard to say no sometimes, but we must also we honest, yet I do understand what you mean. Fear can be the reason. It is something we all need to practice! Cher xo

      Liked by 1 person

  4. angelanoelauthor
    July 30, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree! I went to a leadership conference where the facilitator put it like this, “If it isn’t a hell yes, then, it’s a hell NO.” Meaning, of course, don’t be a total jerk, but know what you want and don’t do things just to avoid other people being mad. That leads only to disappointment and hard feelings down the road. Owning my preferences and giving people a sincere YES when I truly want to do what is asked, means I’m not only true to myself but more present when I’m doing whatever I’m doing. If I can’t get to a hell yes, then really I need to say no. It’s kinder to both me, and to the person who’s asking for my assistance, support etc. It’s not always easy to do, but it’s made a huge difference for me. I do want to be there to support my friends and family and I have to trust my good intent, while also allowing my preferences and my energy and passion to carry weight in my decision making, too. Thank you for the post, and for sharing your own revelations. It’s such an important idea–one I wish I’d understood as a twenty-something.

    Liked by 2 people

    • July 30, 2017 at 3:36 pm

      Ah, that sounds like a wonderful conference! I agree with everything you mentioned, Angela! I love how you mention, “………I have to trust my good intent, while also allowing my preferences and my energy and passion to carry weight in my decision making, too.” If we don’t do this, we only build up huge resentment. For the most part, I feel when we oblige ourselves then others will feel that we are ‘agreeing’ with them, or are ‘okay’ with it. It certainly doesn’t mean that we care any less or do not want to support those who we care about, does it? A rather interesting balancing act at times, I think. Me too, Angela; most definitely, ‘if I knew then what I know now’ scenarios only given with age I think! Thank you so much for your wonderful words! Cher xo

      Liked by 1 person

  5. July 30, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    I was just having a similar conversation with my mom, and we were talking about how both of us just need to say “No,” sometimes, and that’s ok! But even so, it can also be hard because I don’t want to upset anyone; however, like you said, bringing joy an peace into my own life should be my priority– plus, if this is someone who cares about my well being, they should understand that no one can say “yes” to everything. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 30, 2017 at 3:42 pm

      Were you, Becca? Your words about not wanting to upset anyone remind me of the young lady I spoke with, and an earlier version of myself for sure! It is not easy, to be sure. However, it is a freeing feeling when we can have it in the forefront of our minds to be true to ourselves. I just remembered a terrific quote from Dr. Suess, the famous writer of those fantastic children’s books: “Those that matter don’t mind, and those that mind, don’t matter.” I think you know what that means! It doesn’t negate our relationships, but if someone is controlling us to the point that it upsets them if we (heaven forbid) don’t do what they want us to, then their comments do not matter (or rather, should not matter). Thank you so much for your comments! And I love when you mentioned that people who care about your well being should understand that no one can say “yes” to everything! Cher xo

      Liked by 1 person

  6. July 30, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    Important post. Without NOs, you get whipsawed in living others’ lives. Great post

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 30, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      Why thank you so much, David. Oh yes, without NOs we become the, ‘bit players’ in others’ lives, despite the ‘protest’ of such internally. I’m all for NOs, David! Cher xo

      Liked by 1 person

  7. July 31, 2017 at 2:49 am

    In my 20s, I was exactly like this. I really stressed myself out trying to please everyone. Now in my 40s I can confidently say no to things. Putting yourself first from time to time is no bad thing. Your as important as the person asking something of you. Great post. Have Stumbled for you x


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