Nine Things We Don’t Owe Anybody

Nine things we don't owe anyone

I often see inspirational blog posts, memes and quotes that focus on the idea of teaching the younger generation about life. Lots of these appear to have the same message: nobody owes you anything. What you gain from life will be achieved by the hard work and effort that you put into it. While it isn’t strictly true (and I have seen and read countless examples of evidence to show that luck, being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people can sometimes play a part in success), I like the sentiment.

However, what doesn’t appear to be as widely discussed is what we don’t owe to anyone else. In life we surround ourselves with those that matter to us the most, and it often seems like these people have an opinion on what we do and how we do it, leading us to falsely believe that we owe them certain behaviours and justifications. In truth, here are the things that in fact we don’t owe anyone.

1. We don’t owe anyone a favour. It’s one of my biggest annoyances – wanting to help someone should come from kindness, not obligation.

2. We don’t owe apologies if they are not genuine. An apology given when we are not ready to move on will only temporarily heal the wounds – anger towards someone will usually resurface and will usually cause greater harm in the long term. Apologies should be given when the issue has been resolved in our own minds.

3. We don’t owe somebody a romantic relationship or friendship. It took me a long time to realise that these cannot be simply based around the ideas of familiarity and the fact that you may have known each other for a long time. People change, their priorities and outlook on life change and, as sad as it may seem, time spent with somebody who isn’t the person that you used to know is time that is wasted.


4. We don’t owe somebody our time just because they have requested it. This sounds incredibly harsh, and obviously doesn’t apply to the workplace (can you imagine the response you’d get if you said this to your boss?!) but in your personal life you don’t have to see or spend time with somebody if you don’t wish to. You don’t have to accept a date just because you have been asked. Similarly, if you have been on a date and have decided that you don’t wish to see the person again, you have every right to politely and gently let them down without feeling guilty and worrying about repercussions. If the person reacts in an hostile manner, you clearly made the right choice in the first place.

5. On a darker note, we don’t owe anyone a physical relationship. There are no circumstances  that can justify becoming involved physically with somebody if you don’t want to. They may be the nicest, sweetest person in the world and they may have helped you, consoled you, guided you and listened to you, but the answer is always the same. You don’t owe anyone a physical relationship at any time, for any reason.

6. We don’t owe anyone a new experience. My friends and I know each others likes and dislikes, and we don’t get offended when one of us responds with ‘it’s not really my thing, but thanks anyway!’  Of course, this doesn’t apply if a friend asks you to support them in something that they are doing personally – I’ve seen friends perform in comedy clubs, ice hockey matches and fashion shows – but you don’t have to attend events that your friends are ‘trying out’ if you know that it is something you aren’t going to be interested in.

image7. We don’t owe anyone ‘just one more…’ or ‘just try this…’ or ‘yes.’ One of my biggest annoyances is when I have decided that I have had enough to drink and there is always that one person who wants me to have just one more. I used to give in after several pleas and have another one just to shut them up, but now I politely decline until they give up. This doesn’t just apply to drinking – it can be in every aspect of life and covers both big or small issues (a rather silly memory that I have is being hassled for nearly two hours at a party to try food that I knew I wouldn’t like as I’ve had it before – I eventually gave in, tried it and hated it, and was then annoyed at both her and myself for allowing myself to be pressured into doing something, however trivial, that I didn’t want to do) – that one more anything shouldn’t have to be forced upon you and you don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to do, especially if you know that you’ve had enough.

8. We don’t owe anyone the perfectly groomed version of ourselves. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the only opinion on the way that we look that should matter is our own. We shouldn’t have to dress in a certain way, wear the popular labels, be a certain size and present ourselves for the benefit of our friends and partners. At the weekends I spend my time make-up free and wearing hooded sweaters and jeans. Several of my friends are flawless and immaculate at all times. We have never explained ourselves for this, it is just accepted without question.

9. We don’t owe anyone our life story or our secrets. If you don’t want to talk about something personal, you don’t have to, even if a friend has asked. And, to be fair, a genuine friend would not push you to if you weren’t comfortable.

When it comes to life and relationships it is always important to be kind, supportive and genuine. Help others, be there for others, but do so because you want to, not because you feel that you owe them something. And when life requires an explanation, one that should be offered a little more is simply this, offered by the late, great Maya Angelou:

‘You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove’

What about you? Have you ever been made to feel that you ‘owe’ somebody?

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211 thoughts on “Nine Things We Don’t Owe Anybody

  1. It’s taken me a long time to get to the point that I’ve actually realized all of these. Somewhere recently, I saw a meme or a post that talks about saying “thank you” instead of “sorry” – something alone the lines of, instead of apologizing for being late, say how much you appreciate the person’s patience. I couldn’t figure out until now why that bothered me, but I’ve just realized it’s because the expectation (being owed an explanation) is still there.

    At any rate, still trying to get out of the habit of saying, “sorry” for the most ridiculous things that have nothing to do with me, (Hubby – “The snow made for a miserable ride home.” Me – “Sorry.” Hubby – “Why, are you in charge of the weather?”). Thanks for the reminder.

  2. This offered one of those “aha!” moments. It seems simple to say, “Of course, I don’t owe anyone a relationship, or my time, etc.” But it isn’t. Without consciously thinking it through, I easily fall into the trap of saying yes, when I really want to say no. Only in the last eighteen months or so have I become more aware of making deliberate choices, versus defaulting to what feels like an obligation to give of myself or my time in a particular way. I think people can feel the difference when I offer something out of kindness and because I want to versus out of a sense of obligation-feels better to me, and feels better to them. Thank you for the helpful list-it’s so important.

  3. This post is such an eye-opener and put me on ground. It made me realize that I dont owe anybody anything, and THEY dont owe ME anything. And that it’s ok to say no, even to close friends, and be well-groomed ALL the time.
    I remember, my friend gave me a make up set as a birthday gift because she said I dont put on makeup everyday. I thought its my decision 😅
    Thank you for sharing. Great post.

    • That’s a perfect example of exactly what i was talking about. My sis was bought make up for her birthday even though she rarely wears it – as if it was some sort of issue!

  4. This is a fabulous list. I have made strides in most of them and alas still have work to do in others. Saying NO is something I continually need to practice and oversharing when probed is another. You are right on with this advice!

  5. Are you kidding? I was raised Catholic by an Evil Stepmother, so I was led to believe that I owed her for each paternal action on her behalf and every penny she ever spent on me. The Catholic Guilt made me feel like she was right. So glad those days are behind me. I totally owe you for opening my eyes to this issue… 😉

  6. You are so right. When I hear that someone ‘demands an apology’ I always think – how valuable is that apology really? Yes, I have done things out of obligation but these days not so much. And once I have given my decision i will not change it.

  7. I can honestly say that each point you made in this brilliant post spoke to me in a huge way! It sure does take the pressure off when we realize we don’t ‘owe’ people what they think we do, doesn’t it, Suzie? Thank you for a fantastic post and something that I needed to be reminded of today (well, everyday for that matter)! Cher xo

  8. Addendum to #8: we don’t owe anyone any particular version of ourselves. I don’t have to show you my “softer side” or appear without makeup because you “like me natural” any more than I have to get all dolled up if I don’t feel like it.

    #7 is a big peeve of mine, though. Please stop trying to pressure or trick people into doing or eating stuff! It’s weird and creepy, and potentially dangerous.

  9. I think these lessons are the hardest for women to grasp. I don’t find that men, on the whole, question these expectations. They’re raised to be enough just the way they are, it is really a sad state. We spend our lives looking for acceptance on all levels.

    • I sort of disagree with that one – a large percentage of my friends are male and I often see that they have exactly the same anxieties and expectations put upon them as much as us women do, it just isn’t talked about as much

      • This could also be a cultural difference, boys in general are raised to be tough yes but they aren’t criticized about being “enough” to the extent women are here. For example we are still arguing about the governance over our reproductive decisions here and whether we have that right, still don’t get paid equally. That’s all a reflection for how we are seen in the country at large and currently we aren’t through smart enough by the majority of citizens to lead a country. And I say all of this to say that those actions dig deep into our consciousness.

      • I think you may be right. The U.K. isnt perfect by any means, but I do think on the whole we are much more liberal in our views as a society. Then again, we’re dealing with not so different issues with the whole Brexit mess…

      • Well there is no bigger circus than the US right now. Fifty percent of white women voted for a man who thinks that because he’s rich you can just grab women by their genitalia with no consequences. If that doesn’t say how they feel about themselves, I don’t know what would.

      • White women who voted you mean – I thought the overall turnout was low so I’m assuming that doesn’t include every white woman in the US? It wasn’t just white women that voted for him – what was the percentage of women of colour who voted for him? I think the fact that women voted for him at all, regardless of race is bad enough in itself… He’s a dangerous man – it must be quite worrying for you guys there!

      • Yes, white women who voted. Sorry I’m replying on my phone so I wasn’t as long winded. Women of color were in the single digits percentage points. That’s not to say that women of color don’t have the thoughts of, “Am I enough”. What I’m pointing out is for my own self preservation, I wouldn’t put someone with feelings of superiority over my fender in charge of my interests. And overwhelmingly white men who voted, voted for him. It’s wasn’t just women.

  10. I do feel like I’m in a Green Eggs and Ham moment a lot, sometimes with alcohol, most often with coffee – I feel like I’m surrounded by a cult of coffee and people won’t let it go, they seem convinced that I just haven’t tasted coffee or maybe the ‘right’ coffee, let it go, folks, it’s just a drink. This was an awesome post when I first read it, Suzie, I think I’ve now read it 4x and it just gets better and wiser. Thank you. Dropped by from #BigUpYourBlog #SocialSaturday – I admit, I don’t comment as often as I’d like, I just don’t seem to have the time or don’t quite know what to say, but this was fun, it’s a good reminder. It’s too bad WordPress pulled that trick or had that glitch that switched so many of us to emails blocked – we couldn’t see emails about new posts and others couldn’t see emails about our posts. Off to comment, share, etc. Hope this weekend is treating you kindly.

    • Thanks so much Donna – I’m so glad that you’re enjoying the group! Thanks so much for commenting – it’s difficult when all of these updates happen and we lose things!

  11. I want to copy out #8 and put it somewhere I can see it every day – especially the days I have no time to put on make up but everyone else in my life does (if I’m honest, that feels like most days)!

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  13. I love this advice! I think as women especially we are taught to be helpful and kind where possible, which isn’t a bad thing, but some people really don’t deserve it. I have never been one for being put together at all times, either, it must be exhausting! I don’t mind being pushed into new experiences mainly because I am naturally a bit unadventurous, and an introvert, but tend to have fun a lot of the time when pushed out of my comfort zone. But boundaries are important, I agree, I am only learning this in the past few years really.

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