knowing when to step back.

“you’re so busy!” “you’re always on the go.” “you do so many things.”

can quickly turn into..

“we were going to invite you, but we knew you were busy.” 

“i never see you any more.”

“it’s been months since we talked.” 

I’ve always been a busybody. In high school, I was in band year round, serving on the board of our volunteer club, volunteering, participating in church youth groups, drama club, track and field.. You name it, I probably did it.


This kept on in college. I worked part-time, volunteered, interned, ventured into direct sales, led church youth group, did small groups, and found time to spend with friends.

After graduation, like so many other newly minted degree holders, found myself with a lightened schedule. No more classes? Awesome. No more homework or group projects? Even better. My only obligation was to my employer, and I could replace the time I spent in school with new things. I picked up a few hobbies, including knitting and sewing. I started The Wittle Whale, an Etsy shop I am extremely proud of. I joined the Jaycees, something I am also very proud of. I expanded my friend groups through new church small groups, like Caritas and GRITS. I had expanded my world but also started to feel boxed in.

Boxed in by my obligations to new friends, new jobs, and responsibilities. By trying to balance my more than full-time work schedule with the desire to grow my Etsy shop. By asking the ridiculous question of which relationships I was going to prioritize, and which ones I was okay letting slip. I know that sounds terrible, and I regret having to add value estimates into such things, but to some extent we all do it.

And in doing so, I started to put myself at the bottom of my list. If asked to volunteer for something, I was there. Boss ask for help on a new project? I’ll take it on, and three additional projects from others in my department. Attend a small group get-together for the third time this week? I certainly didn’t want to miss out.

The last two years I’ve had immense difficulty with guilt and shame over not being able to please the people around me, and have waffled between being the social butterfly this environment demanded and the crotchety hermit who locked herself away. To throw another thing in the mix, I had some intense things happen in my life: a new job transition and the loss of a tight-knit group of coworkers, a difficult patch in a significant friendship, and some religious stubbornness that is still on the mend. All this culminated in some very dark times dealing with depression and anxiety.

So I did what I had been avoiding for several years – I bit the bullet and started seeing a therapist. We worked out that a lot of my “issues” were due to the transitions in work environments and friend groups, and the pressure I put on myself to perform at a high level 24/7.

So I stopped and looked at the world around me. There were situations I felt stressed about that I didn’t need to be doing and that weren’t a priority. I put a system in place that if it wasn’t involved with the church, my role in the Jaycees, my work with The Wittle Whale or with my closest friends, I didn’t have to say yes. I went from having something every night of the week to actually having a night or two to just be home or do something I wanted to do, by myself. I used the Meijer Gardens and Zoo memberships I had paid for but not had time to use. I took a drive to an antique store an hour away to just shop by myself. I’ve definitely had my fair share of FOMO, but I also feel like the tight spring I had wound myself up as has slowly started to relax. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but I’m becoming more comfortable with setting boundaries and saying no.

If this is something that resonates with you, here are some things that you can consider:

1. Do a digital detox.

I turned off notifications on my phone to resist the urge to check it. I also unliked several pages and unfollowed (not unfriended) most of my friend list. I plan on doing a more extensive post on the unfollowing at a later point, but it has cut down on the amount of time I spend on Facebook, and I feel like I have better conversations because I genuinely don’t know what is going on in someone’s life and get to discover things straight from them.

2. Talk to someone about how you feel.

I am the worst at this. One of my best friends has been great at this, slowly prying me open over the past five years of our friendship to get to know me and how I don’t like to share, so he knows when I actually do need to. Going to a few therapy sessions also helped me, as I was able to get an outside perspective without feeling like I was getting judged.

3. Set priorities and communicate them clearly.

My family now knows that if it is a Jaycee’s project or function,  or if I’m working on The Wittle Whale, that I will be unavailable to do family stuff like grab dinner, see a movie, or go on a roadtrip on the weekends. I value working outside of the office to get things done, and my boss is gracious and flexible to allow me to work offsite when needed.

4. Know your limits.

Going to the third small group function in a week may sound like a great idea, but feeling like you get nothing done outside of seeing them does not feel great. Allow yourself the potential of missing out on something because you’re taking time for yourself.

5. Give yourself permission to do nothing.

This is a big one for me. There is always something else that can be done – a new item to sew, a new project to start, an errand to run, etc. I downloaded The Sims 4 on my computer and there are some nights I just sit in and play that instead of going to an event I’ve been invited to. Our culture is so focused on productivity and getting the most out of life that we sometimes forget to recharge. Do yourself a favor and schedule some time that is all yours.

I hope that you are in a place that you can recognize when you need to step back, and I hope this psot helps you identify some things to try!


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