The freedom of not finishing

I walked out of an art exhibition the other day.

Gasp!  I know, seriously, how daring am I?

I realised I wasn’t in the mood and walked away.  It was busy and hot and hectic and I knew I would have a more enjoyable time wandering round the city instead, taking photos and thinking my thoughts.  I felt carefree and liberated and in charge  of myself and my time.

I’m all for laudable ideals, of course, like doing what you say you will, keeping your word, being reliable, trustworthy, on time, a good friend…

But there’s a difference between keeping your word and not letting anyone down, and doggedly finishing  or going through with something that has ceased to be enjoyable, just because at some earlier point in time you thought it was a good idea.

You don’t always need to ‘see things through’ in order to be a good person.

You are the boss of you!  You get to choose where your time and energy is invested.

I used to think it was some sort of crime to give up on a book.  If I’d invested several hours and emotional energy into it already, surely it would be a ‘waste’ of those hours if I didn’t determinedly pursue it to the bitter end?

Our time on the planet is brief! Let’s make the most of that time, not waste it away doing something that’s stopped being fun or worthwhile. It would be a double waste of time to finish a book out of some misguided attempt to stick things out, because  we’ve been told it’s better to ‘start what you finish’. Those hours reading the dull book are gone! We don’t need to lose any more!  Who exactly is keeping score anyway?

You’re answerable to yourself and only yourself.

You are responsible for yourself, your happiness, and what you do and do not do with your time.  If that means giving up on a book halfway through, walking out of a crap film, leaving a party early, or not going out at all because you just don’t feel like it, then so be it.  That’s the beauty of being autonomous and free!  We just need to act on it!

Don’t do things you don’t want to do. Wouldn’t life be simpler if we all kept to this whenever it was reasonably possible?  I’m not talking about shirking responsibility and living in a selfish bubble as if you were the only person on the planet.  If you have people in your life and you want them to stay there, then of course you have to consider them and make them part of the equation.

But don’t say yes when you really want to say no  to a favour, a night out, whatever.  Your time is precious.  You are precious!  Don’t commit to something unless your heart is really in it. And while we’re at it, remember that you are allowed to change your mind.  Yes really!  You’re in charge!  Circumstances alter, feelings change.  You don’t need to be an unreliable flake but realise that you don’t always have to stay the course.

I know you feel responsible for others people’s happiness, but you are not.

If you do something out of a misplaced sense of duty or obligation you’re not doing anyone any favours, least of all yourself.  You’ll be resentful, and you’ll likely feel depleted because you won’t be being true to yourself. Plus there will probably be weird energy around, because what you are really feeling inside won’t be in alignment with your actions, and that will be somehow palpable.

Maybe we’re worried that we won’t live up to other people’s expectations of who we are. Fine.  Good, even!  There is much liberation to be found in being able to disappoint other people.  Let them be disappointed!  You don’t have a contract with them!  You never signed a deal, saying you were infallible, or flawless, that you never mess up, or change your mind, make mistakes, or have crazy out-of-whack days.

Maybe the person you say no to will react badly, or take it personally. That might be true but it isn’t for you to try to control.  Your job is to be true to yourself, and communicate your truth with respect and kindness, and leave the rest to do whatever it is going to do.

What terrible thing do you think is going to happen anyway?   That people won’t like you?  So what?  What about you liking yourself?  How are you going to feel about yourself if you prioritize someone else’s happiness over your own, time and time again?   What do you think this will do in the long run to your self respect and confidence, not to mention your general happiness and wellbeing?

So much icky communication happens because of doing and saying stuff out of a sense of duty, second guessing, worry or fear. These are not helpful places to make choices from!  We must act from a place of our own truth and sincerity since we can never know or control how someone else is going to react or feel.  Other people are completely out of our area of control.

Identify the areas in your life that are in your control where you can really exercise your autonomy, and act accordingly.  Really.  Leave something unfinished, challenge someone’s expectations of you, change your mind, abandon a project halfway through.  It might not feel easy but I bet you will be happier for it!

Jenny xx

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Happy Friday beautiful people!