Do you ever do something not because you truly want to, but because you feel like you should? I could easily be talking about work or writing or love or smiling… I could be talking about living.
In a way, I kind of am.
Let’s make this personal shall we: throughout middle school and high school, 7 years of my life, I was a runner. Here’s a concept— I hate running. Give me a 4×1, I loved it. But only if I didn’t start. Give me a triple jump or long jump, loved that too (probably more). But don’t make me run, not in a competition with a start gun and a timer.
I loved the people and the jumping. Not so much the running.
So why did I do it and keep doing it, running varsity all four years of high school and taking on team co-captain senior year?
Because I was good at it. What a shame it would have been to waste my talent right, to let my team down?
It was an obligation. Not one that I regret for the physical shape and amount of connections I made through the sport, but still an obligation.
Now think about yourself, why do we smile at strangers even when there’s nothing funny or amusing or remotely smile inducing about them? I don’t even know if it’s considered polite, we were simply always told to be kind and smile at other people. It’s an obligation of sorts.
Like the black person nod— no, I do not know every black person I see out around Folsom or Cal Poly, but that doesn’t stop me from nodding at them when I pass by. I never really questioned it, it’s just what we do.
You get what I’m saying.
When it comes to these things, from the smiling to the nodding, maybe it helps us in the long run. I know with track, I met a handful of incredible people and learned a lot about myself in the process. Even with the smiling thing, it’s paid off working in customer service and retail for the past few years. We do a lot of things out of obligatory feelings of needing to do it. Whether we’re good at it, it’s polite, it’s “the right thing to do”…
Maybe sometimes that’s a good thing. And maybe other times it’s not.
Because what happens when we do something out of obligation that in turn compromises our own intentions or integrity? Now I’m not talking about doing something out of your comfort zone, those things are important for growth and experience in the long run.
I am talking about priority.
There are a lot of things that we may do because we feel like we should and it ends up helping us too. But if we take someone else’s needs and put them above ourselves, that obligation can turn around and hurt us in the process. Think about it, I’m sure you’ve been there.
Have you ever had a deadline coming up but a friend needed your help, so you put the work aside and helped them out leaving very little time for that deadline?
Or maybe you offered to help tutor a classmate or walk a coworker through something every day, only to watch your performance and time slip due to your time spent on them.
Whether they’re friends, family, coworkers… Anyone really, I understand the want to help people or to support them as best you can. Sometimes that will in turn take away from your own time or sleep, maybe even your own well-being.
There simply needs to be a line somewhere.
There is this grey area between being kind or helpful, and being a pushover. I know it’s something I’ve always struggled to find a balance in. Always putting other people’s needs in front of your own may not help them in the long run, and it definitely doesn’t help you. But never supporting others or letting yourself not be the center of your own life every once in a while doesn’t help anyone either.
The older we get, the more important our relationships become— that includes our relationships with ourselves. So find a balance in there, between obligation versus self-prioritization or self-neglect versus love and support.
I know it’s hard to find the line that balances the two sides out, I’ve been looking for it for years and still haven’t found it. But a life out of obligation isn’t a good one, not when you’re doing it for the wrong reasons or the wrong people. So find a balance and make sure it’s a good one…
I’ll be looking for one too.
See you Tuesday for a new Bookworms post. Happy weekend!