When You "Have To" (Belonging vs. Choice)
Ever heard yourself say "I have to" and then experienced a heavy or resentful feeling? Saying "I have to" can be a short hand way to refer to a responsibility that you are choosing or it can be a way of creating a burden and obligation.
When you make decisions from a sense of "I have to", you create a sort of mental slavery and come to resent others for it. This isn't something you are consciously creating. My guess is that somewhere back there in life, when you were exercising your choice, you had some negative experiences. You learned that if you choose what's right for you it could cost you acceptance from the group, a sense of belonging, or it seemed to hurt others. You may not even consciously remember these experiences.
You learned to cope by repressing your choice in favor of what you thought the group (or your parents) wanted you to do. This way of thinking becomes a habit and even though the situation has changed and hopefully you now find yourself in groups that support your authenticity, you act from the old reality.
It's my hope for you that you are with people who are big enough to support your authenticity and the needs of the group. If this is truly not the case, you may find that you need to leave that community or group of friends. Eventually, trading your authenticity for belonging becomes an unsustainable way of living. Symptoms like anger, depression, and sense of being empty or lost begin to appear.
As I worked with this pattern in myself, I noticed that a part of me was imagining that amorphous others were watching and judging my choices. The more clearly I saw through this pattern the more I saw how my belonging was secure and my authenticity supported by others.
One of the most tragic things about this dynamic is that you likely, have a true value and longing to be of service and care for others, and this gets hijacked by fear and obligation. Serving from a sense of burden and resentment isn't a contribution, it's a toxin to yourself and your relationships. Sadly, you don't meet your need for contribution or authenticity.
It takes courage to choose what's right for you when you perceive that your belonging is at risk. However, standing in your choice and authenticity and noticing that you are supported heals this wounding and liberates you from slavery to limiting beliefs.
This week notice when you are telling yourself, "I have to". Take a couple of breaths and notice what your experience is when you are in that frame of mind. Then, check in with the reality of the situation. Is your belonging really at risk? Are you willing to choose what's right for you and see what happens?
Lastly, check in with other needs behind a choice you are making. Is it a decision from the heart based on needs for integrity, contribution, completion, etc? Sometimes just getting touch with what you are caring for when you make a decision can help you shift from obligation to choice.
Slow Isn't Everything