We’re in the middle of the holiday season AND a pandemic. This is your friendly reminder that there are some things that you simply should not have to apologize for. Roll into your holiday plans – whatever they are – equipped with these reminders.

Stop apologizing for saying ‘no’ (to anything).

Not every day is the right day to challenge yourself or push your limits. There’s a time and place for confronting triggers and situations that produce some anxiety. Part of OCD recovery is knowing when to do the hard thing, and when to say ‘no.’

Learning to trust your intuition – that inner voice that reminds you that you need rest, self-care or a night off – is a practice. Anxiety will tell you to say ‘no’ because it’s just going to be scary and horrible and awful. Intuition will tell you to say ‘no’ because there happens to be something else you need in order to take care of yourself.

You have permission to politely decline that holiday party. To say ‘no’ to inviting your mom’s stressful sister over for the holiday. To go to bed instead of going out on a date. To let the dirty laundry sit for another day. Pay attention when your intuition tells you it’s time to do the hard thing. But also pay attention when your intuition tells you it’s time to trade the hard thing for self-care.

Stop apologizing for disappointing people.

Fact: It’s tough for other people when you change boundaries or implement new ones. 

Fact: It’s tough for other people when you enforce your existing boundaries.

Newsflash: You are not responsible for regulating other people’s emotions.

New boundaries are often necessary to protect your mental health. And other people may not like it. A family member may not like that you’re not going to answer every text within 5 minutes anymore. A friend may not appreciate that you no longer hold space for their constant complaining about their relationship. A significant other may not understand that you need an hour to decompress when you walk in the door from work, rather than launching directly into answering questions about your day.

But honestly, they don’t have to like it. They will adjust (or they won’t), and it isn’t your responsibility to bend healthy boundaries to accommodate their preferences.

Practice telling the truth with love. Kindly explain a boundary that you have, and then stick to it. It may take an adjustment period as everyone adapts to new ways of operating, but being kind through that process doesn’t mean being apologetic about taking care of yourself. 

Honor your commitments to others and to yourself by being ok with disappointing people, if it means you are protecting necessary boundaries.

Stop apologizing for not smiling more.

Ok, it’s a bit unfortunate that we even have to go here, but we live in a culture that can sometimes take ‘politeness’ a little too far and expect people to act happy when they aren’t happy. Everybody has bad days, and while you don’t need to walk around dumping your bad day onto everyone around you, you also aren’t required to put on a show in order to hide your authentic self.

Here’s a little tip. Asking you to smile or to pretend isn’t always positioned as an outright directive like, “Please smile and act happy.” It’s usually more covert than that. They may ask “what’s wrong?” a hundred times until you catch on and start acting like nothing’s wrong. They may punish a ‘bad attitude’ with the silent treatment or cold shoulder.

“I’m just not feeling great today, but it’s going to be okay,” “Today isn’t the greatest, but thank you for your concern,” or “I’m not in the best headspace, but I’m doing my best” are all examples of perfectly acceptable answers whenever you’re covertly or outright asked to put a mask on for someone else’s sake.

Smile when you feel like smiling. Laugh when you feel like laughing. You aren’t always required to smile and laugh, even if everyone around you is smiling and laughing.

Stop apologizing for placing your mental health at the very top of your priority list.

It’s human nature for people to push themselves as high on your priority list as you’re willing to let them. And naturally, when you care about someone deeply, they can consume your time and energy.

However, you are first and foremost responsible for YOU. There’s no need to feel guilty for escaping the hectic family gathering to have a last-minute therapy session. There’s no shame in leaving the sink full of dishes so you can relax in the bathtub to some chill music. There’s nothing wrong with choosing to scale back longtime friendships because they suck all your energy from you.

If you’re reading this and thinking, ‘But I have responsibilities… things I have to do,’ we hear you. You have to take care of your kids. You have to keep a roof over your head. You have to go to school. Having responsibilities and having good mental health are not mutually exclusive. Take care of the things you need to take care of, AND fill your time with the things that fill you up.

The kindest thing you can do for the people you love is to make your health your top priority. Everything else will land in its proper place if you are sure to make your mental health your true north.

Looking for a safe space to discuss your thoughts with peers who understand?

To share your experience without guilt, shame or fear, browse our safe and confidential OCDPeers groups here.

We’d love to hear your story!

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