If you ask anybody who comes to talk to me, they will tell you I have a slightly different response to "thank you" than what most people would say. When I hear "thank you," my preference is to say, "You're worth it." This may sound silly, but it is very important to me. Lately, I have been reflecting a lot on the message that we give others when we say something along the lines of "no problem" or "it's nothing." Other languages do the same thing. In French, they say de rein ("it's nothing") or pas du tout ("not at all"). Spanish speakers say de nada ("it's nothing)". What does this say to others? You may think I am overthinking this (it wouldn't be a great stretch for me), but it seems to me that this implies that one is only worth giving to if it does not create inconvenience to someone else.
Think about someone you love. It might be a child, a partner, a parent, a pet, a friend... Are they ever inconvenient? I would guess so. I have two children and a husband that I love devotedly. Are they ever inconvenient? Of course! Children wake up in the middle of the night and need tending to. My husband sometimes forgets upcoming events or can't find things that seem to me to be readily visible. My cat is getting old, possibly senile, and occasionally incontinent. Are any of those things inconvenient? Of course! Does that mean I love them less? Not at all. I am inconvenient, too. I don't have much energy, and I don't get the things done around the house that need doing. My laundry hasn't been folded in God-knows-how-long (my job in the house) and Mt. Cotton has turned into a range of not-yet-folded mountains (earth science joke for the nerds out there). My kitchen floor has not been mopped in... way too long. I can be lazy, irritable, sarcastic... super inconvenient. Am I still loved? I believe so. Nobody's left yet.
What if the message we send is not that people are not inconvenient but that they are worthy of inconvenience? Life is not easy, and it is not straightforward. It requires us to deal with stressors that we cannot bypass or easily reconcile. What we need is not the belief that things are going to be easy but rather that we can make it successfully through the stressors. Feeling valued and supported helps us have the courage to face change and take risks.
The problem with "no problem" is not just that others may not recognize their value but also that we tell ourselves that we are not worth inconvenience. Inconvenience, to be clear, is different than entitlement. I find, myself, that I tend to give up on something for myself when it becomes inconvenient. It's not altogether laziness, I don't think. I think it's that I have never learned to value myself enough to cope with the inconvenience. Discipline has always been an issue for me, though I think my values are good. I am responsible, but I don't always have the energy or willingness to push through on things for me. Exercise is good for me. I know this, but I have not been willing to push past the physical or mental discomfort. I need to do a better job of keeping up with documentation and finances in my business, but I have not yet motivated myself to do so.
Now, to be fair, I don't think these things are because everyone said "No problem" to me when I said "Thank you." It's not that simple. Depression, anxiety, and ADD are significant contributors, to be sure. At school, I learned most things pretty easily and did not have to struggle overmuch. I do think, however, that I never consistently got the message that I was worth inconvenience. This is not to say that nobody ever did anything inconvenient for me, but more that I got the message that it was a lot of trouble and not something others wanted to deal with. I learned to focus on others and their needs and not to prioritize my own. I don't think anyone intended me to develop those beliefs, but there was not a lot of focus on teaching me something different. Changing those thought patterns will take time and effort, which, I guess, is ironic.
How does this change happen? Patience, I think, and time. Replacing criticism with curiosity. Practicing trusting. (Yes, none of these are complete sentences -- poetic license?) I don't have all the answers yet. Maybe that's another post.
None of us is responsible for others' beliefs or feelings. At some point, we are all responsible for ourselves. We have a choice, however, to consider the messages that we give and reinforce in others and ourselves. I hope to give my children the idea that they are worth inconvenience and struggle. I joke that they still live at home and don't bring in any money, but they are seven and four. Ultimately, their value is not dependent on whether they make me happy or meet my expectations. They have value simply because they are.
With the people I see, I also want them to develop the same beliefs. I hope to help them get to know and value themselves. To do that, I need to model respect for them and for myself. Boundaries, compassion, and patience all help in that area. Whether you come to see me or not, I hope that you will learn to be gentle, to be good to yourself, and to remind both you and the ones you love that
You're worth it.