I can’t go on living.
Not one more day.
Not like this.
This is what kept running through my mind as I lay on my back on my bed.
I had just come back from work that day.
It had been a busy day. But that was not the reason why I was tired.
What drained me was dealing with the drama on our family Facebook group throughout the day.
It all started with something very silly.
My mom posted an unflattering comment on a Facebook photo of my sister-in-law.
I mean, who even cares about that, right?
But for my brother and his wife, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
They fought back.
They created a Facebook group, got our uncles, aunts, and cousins got involved, and started airing long pent grievances.
And then the shitshow started.
A shitshow of accusations, defensiveness, and invalidations.
So there I was, sitting on the office chair, hoping to catch a break after a hectic morning of changing the diapers of an 18-month-old son.
But instead, I found myself trying to do damage control and placating the ego of everyone involved.
And when the dust settled?
The entire blame was placed on me.
Because I didn’t do my job of playing the peacemaker well enough. Because I chose to not take any sides.
Is that a valid expectation?
You tell me.
But it was not something unexpected.
Because you see, I’m the eldest child of my family.
And as one, I was always told that I was responsible for maintaining peace in the family. That this was what I was destined to do.
And I tried to play that role to the best of my ability.
When I did that, I had value. When I refused to do that, I lost all the value in my family’s eyes.
I wanted to be respected and appreciated by my family. I wanted to be acknowledged and receive gratitude from them.
I wanted to feel safe and secure about my place in my family.
So I did what I was told to the best of my abilities.
Even if that meant enduring insults and sarcastic comments.
I tried harder, I tried to be more patient.
I tried to be the “good guy” always.
And in return, I expected that they will take care of my wants and needs – without having me spell them out.
Can you see where this is leading?
Yep, you guessed it right.
Frustration and resentment on every side.
And living this way has its effects.
I was seething with rage and resentment to be treated this way.
I hated spending time with my family whom I was supposed to love.
Even daily life was starting to feel lackluster, devoid of meaning and joy.
I knew something had to change.
A change that I couldn’t bring yet because of my decades-long conditioning.
But that night, something snapped within me.
One blinding flash of clarity and realization dawned on me.
I knew for sure that I was going to end up like a bitter old man – shaking sticks at children playing under my window.
I could see myself trapped in the victim mentality like my mom.
And I knew I would cause the same kind of pain and hurt to others.
I have had enough. I started looking for answers.
I scoured Google, Reddit AMAs, books, forums, and communities for it.
And slowly a realization started to take shape.
A realization that turned my life upside down.
A realization that felt so crazy to me, so contrary to my worldview, yet so reassuring – that I was convinced it was the answer I was seeking.
Any guesses what that was?
I realized that I can be my own source of approval, appreciation, respect, and love.
I realized that I don’t need to take care of others as much as I thought earlier.
People are stronger and more resilient than I gave them credit for.
So I decided to change how I operated.
I stopped going out of my way to take care of others – out of covert expectations.
And I started doing only what I felt comfortable with.
I vowed to take care of myself the same way I used to do for my family.
And I trusted them to take care of their own.
I started prioritizing my health, energy, and mental peace.
I got clear about my own rights, and what I’m allowed and not allowed to do.
I developed strong boundaries with others and even myself.
And I saw immediate benefits.
My energy soared up. My habit of worrying went away. I became more resilient and resourceful.
I started having my own back and started standing up for myself.
I started speaking up for what I wanted and needed.
And then I started teaching people what I had learned.
I created the 7-Step Approval Reboot System.
It’s a CBT-based program designed to get rid of approval addiction and help people become better advocates for themselves.
Since then, I have seen so many people go through this program and change their lives.
I saw Nash transform himself, draw better boundaries with his family, and cut out the leeches who were draining his mental energy as well as his finances.
I saw Raj standing up to his bosses and stopping compromising on his self-respect.
And many more…
The story keeps on repeating.
Today my relationship with my family members improved beyond measure – even though I had very little hope.
I started receiving the appreciation, love, and respect that I always wanted.
They now knew that whatever I do, I do it out of my own free will, and not because of some obligation or guilt.
Do you know what happens when you drop this kind of transactional bargain and let your values guide you?
Then true love flourishes.
Today my family appreciates me more because of it.
And that’s not all.
I have become more accountable for myself and banished the victim mentality forever.
This allowed me to forgive my family and accept the role I played in my own suffering by not setting strong boundaries.
It taught me compassion for myself, my family, and my friends.
It taught me to accept everyone as the imperfect yet glorious human beings we all are.
My life has changed forever.
But enough about me. What about you?
Do you still believe that bending over backward to take care of others is the only way to happiness?
How is that working for you?
If you are as miserable as I was that night, I hope my story has shown you the light.
I hope you know by now that’s not the only option.
You can learn to make yourself a priority. You can learn to be responsible for your own needs and wants.
And when you do so you are in a better position to help others.
Do you need help being a better advocate for yourself?
Then hit that reply button, and let me know.