You Don’t Owe Anything to Anyone

How many good girls grow up believing that we owe ourselves – our time, our energy, our love, our investment – to others?

When I posted a little handwritten reminder last week on Instagram, simply stating that we don’t owe anything to anyone, many of you responded. Tens of women in the loud rejoicing crowd said that it was exactly what they needed to hear, but there were quite whispers too.

Emails that said things like…

… I owe my parents an enormous debt for their support and love over my life.

…I owe my partner for sticking with me during that rough patch.

…I owe my allegiance to my family that has never abandoned me.

These quiet whispers were accompanied with another sentiment as well, one of desire. Women wrote saying things like, Well I would really love to ________but I can’t because I owe my life to someone else.

You don’t owe anything to anyone.

You don’t owe anything to anyone. Your life, your time, your energy, your body, your sex, your attention is not a chip to be bartered away or bought by someone else’s kindness. Click through to read more about showing up as you are - without the fear of what might happen if you stop over-delivering. Your life, your time, your energy, your body, your sex, your attention is not a chip to be bartered away or bought by someone else’s kindness.

I remember the moments in my own life.

Feeling like I owed him access to my skin because he was the first to be kind to me at a party.

Feeling like I had to continue down a track that no longer fit, because I had already told everyone that I was going to do it. I had already made the promises. I had already borrowed the money. I owed it to everyone to follow through down a path that wasn’t mine to take.

Feeling like I owed partners chance after chance, because they were doing me the great service of loving me. (And I was unlovable, so I should feel lucky.)

Feeling like I owed my family everything that I had left to give because I love them dearly and that’s what love means, right? Bending yourself into knots, saying yes when you want to say no, and trespassing against your own boundaries.


Because that’s what it meant to be a good girl. Because I should have been grateful that anyone loved me at all. Because I was little more than a vessel for service, for production.

Because I didn’t want anyone to think that I was flaky or selfish or self-important or a total bitch.

Because I had set up a complex system where love and worth were to be earned.

Because I was so desperate to belong that I forgot to belong to myself.

You don’t owe anything to anyone.

When we confuse gratitude for debt, we enslave ourselves in lives that may no longer fit us.

When we believe that we are undeserving of the kind of lives that make us weak in the knees and frothing at the mouth with desire, we keep ourselves hobbled here, small and responsible.

When we want to be good, we take the safe path, the easy entry into relationships and belonging, because we are afraid that without our profound compromises we would be left alone.

When we treat our lives like commodities to be bought and sold, we are saying that we are worth loving on our own.

That we are not worth a momentary dust-up of conflict.

That the quality of our lives aren’t worth fighting for.

That our bodies aren’t ours to do with what we please.

That if we aren’t good, we will never fit in.

You don’t owe anything to anyone.

I am grateful.

I am grateful to my partner who loves me and makes me crazy and sticks around and endures the difficult conversations and navigates my muchness on a daily basis.

But I would not owe her my life if we were to no longer fit together. I do not owe her a pretty smile and a sentiment wrapped up in a pink bow if I am angry and have needs that aren’t being met. I do not owe her my silence in exchange for the continuation of our relationship, if something demands to be spoken aloud.

I am enormously grateful to my parents who grew me, sheltered me, raised me, put me through school, and love me deeply.

But I cannot be good for them alone. I cannot become someone other than who I am to please them. I cannot say yes when I want to say no, because I know that if I do resentment pollutes our beautiful relationships. I cannot take on their burdens as my own responsibility simply because we are tethered by our bloodline.

I love my sisters, more than almost anything in the world.

But they are adults with their own free will and choice and it is not my job to try to live their lives for them.

I am deeply grateful for my community here – for my business, my clients, and all of you lovely readers.

But I cannot keep myself small for your comfort. I have to be able to grow and change and shift over time in order to keep breathing in between the spaces of our energetic work together, in order to keep showing up here with everything that I have to give.

I am very grateful, but my gratitude does not mean that my life for the taking.

When we tell ourselves the story that we owe someone something, we are saying that we have an obligation to pay or repay something in return for something received.

We are reinforcing the concept that love is transactional. That sacrifice must be returned in kind.

But what is the repayment for such a debt?

10 years? 20? A lifetime of goodness?

Is this the way that we want to express our gratitude?

Are we meant for a lifetime of quietly seething, hungering, doing our best to stuff down our feelings about living for someone else?

Is that love?

daily tending divination deck You don’t owe anyone anything.

You get to choose.

You get to express your love in a way that only you can.

You get to live your life for YOU, and still radiate gratitude for those around you.

You are allowed to renegotiate relationships in order to free yourself from the tight restriction of resentment.

You are allowed to show up as you are – and tolerate other people’s reactions to you.

You get to decide what it means to be good.

You don’t owe anyone anything.

This life is yours for the living.

P.s. This article originally appeared as a weekly missive to my top secret circle of truth-tellers. Would you like to receive emails like this bright and early every Wednesday morning? Sign yourself up over here or in the shiny pink box below. xx

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