Obligation and Autonomy

Imagine this all too familiar scene. You’ve been invited out with a group of friends for drinks on a Friday night. You had to stay late at work that day because that brick Phillip jammed the photocopier, and your mood has taken a violent turn to salt-city. You would rather die than have to get dressed up, go out and be social, you have a headache and no amount of Panadol is helping. You feel obligated to go out and meet everyone, because maybe they’re counting on you, and MAYBE the entire night will be ruined due to your absence, and then you’ll become a social outcast and the world will implode? This feeling of obligation is followed by a violent, bubbling rage. Why should you go out if you don’t want to? Why should you force yourself into a situation that you are in no mood for, purely for the sake of other people? Why shouldn’t you take a hot shower, put on a comfy jumper, order a pizza and watch Netflix all evening?

There is a funny internal battle when it comes to obligation and autonomy. The desire to respect what your body and mind needs to recharge and feel relaxed, but also not wanting to be the person who can’t be counted on to show up. I am a huge advocate for self care, and doing what YOU need to do to take care of your wellbeing, but I am also a passionate believer in making your friends a priority and meeting them half-way. Finding the balance between this can be a real challenge. It is true that the nights that we get up, show up and engage are the ones we are more likely to remember, but there needs to be sound choice happening here- we can’t be operating on FOMO (fear of missing out).

If you’ve had a bad day, or even just a regular day, and are struggling with the choice of whether to be a social butterfly or a hermit crab, analyse the why’s behind these feelings, and the outcomes of either choice. Will seeing these particular friends be an enriching experience? Will it bring you laughs, stories and love? Will these interactions make you feel heard and respected, and will you be able to give that to other people too (don’t be a vampire friend- someone who takes and takes without giving back)?

If the answer is no, then please my love, stay home! Don’t put yourself in a position to be the group grouch, who would clearly rather be having teeth pulled than be out in public. Also a handy hint- keep an eye out for anxiety pretending to be self care! It’s a crafty beast, shapeshifting and everything, and you need to catch it before you find yourself denying every single invitation out of fear rather than self care. If you are avoiding group situations because you are in a funk, please try to get out there and try again, it can honestly do a world of good. Just be gentle with yourself.

There is an art to being constructively selfish, and it is so essential to wellbeing. You cannot give from an empty vase, you need to first fill yourself up with happiness and contentment before you can go spreading it around like confetti.

So before you blow off that group dinner, consider what is going to fill you up more (emotionally speaking, we all know you’re gonna be physically full either way, they invented delivery pizza for a reason!). If it’s going to make you feel happy and connected by going to see your wonderful friends faces, then put on your favourite pair of shoes and get out the door! If some alone time is much needed and wayyyy overdue, run a bath, get a glass of wine, whip out a book or a movie and order some delicious food. Enjoy the bliss of being wonderfully alone. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, and is so essential! Whatever your choice, be confident that you are doing what’s best for you. If you’re not taking care of yourself, who will?! (Hint: no one. You gotta do it)

So for the sake of your wellbeing, find your balance between obligation and autonomy. I promise you, it will make life a lot brighter.



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