Believing you have rights in life

Some people who come for counselling due to stress and anxiety (ongoing stress rather than a short immediate escape reaction) are conflicted about self-sacrifice and pleasing others and feeling unable to meet those many and varied demands whilst they themselves don’t meet their needs either. No-one wins.


At times, talking things over with clients is a learned behaviour – conditioned from consistent repetitive feedback about their behaviour regarding punishment or reward.

Our primitive instinct is to ‘belong’ to a group that can protect, support, help and offer us things to meet our needs. This ranged once from food and services in the tribe or village, up to today where this includes luxuries and treats or an easier way to manage tasks like washing machines.

Yet it is so powerful and necessary we still ‘need to belong’ – have a family to care for and about us, we care for them; a team at work with each person's skills and knowledge to achieve the shared aims of the organisation; a community to offer the things we couldn’t have or get without – buying or swapping, sharing etc.

This ‘belonging’ is a sharing process and we too have to offer something in return for what we ask for and get – wages for jobs, security for pets who love us, child and elderly care for those who cared for us once, support, love companionship in the family etc and tasks completed.

But what when the giving becomes too much one way and little in return, little requested and asked for or expected? This giving then becomes self-sacrifice rather than share and swap services.

And often, people don’t think they have ‘a right to that’ and so don’t expect it or ask for something they need.

What are rights and who has the right to what?

There is always give and take, there is always shared skills or knowledge or labour, effort in help and support, guidance, advice, care etc.

We all need our needs met – from sustenance to belonging and security, to value and social status, to being and becoming who we want and are meant to be. There is no one who doesn’t have the right to these things. And more. Love, respect, being heard and accepted, even if not understood and agreed with.

Being heard is a key one. We need to be heard to matter, to exist, to influence our situation and help create a secure, helpful environment to grow, live and thrive in.

If we don’t speak up for ourselves, who will? No one else knows what we really need deep down, what we really believe if we have learned to keep quiet on that, learned to disappear or please others so we are cared for and about.

Only you know your values, beliefs, needs, expectations, hopes and dreams, tendencies, behaviours, reasons, styles and preferences because we have grown up developing them, discovering them, utilising them – or hiding them because a key person in our lives doesn’t like it and challenges their needs and beliefs/expectations!

You have the right to believe what you do if it (still) works for you. You can change beliefs with life experiences.

You have the right to expect care, compassion, respect and acceptance from people in your life as to who and what you are and why, and if you then choose you can further develop and move forward.

You have the right to the values you have that were developed over time from your life experiences and things you missed, lost or need. Some are initially inherited from your family, culture and etc and again, these might change or develop with your own life experiences and knowledge, choices, contemporary environments you find yourself in.

You have the right to be heard in whatever you have to say, and respected for whatever you think, feel and want. The others may not agree or understand, or identify with your views but they have to respect that yours are as valid as theirs to you and for you, for whatever reasons.

You have the right to have your needs met and really, only you can do that, with help and people you choose to have in your life. Needs are essential things you can’t live without v wants that make life easier and more fun and they are things that make you feel whole so not always practicalities like food and security but always value and purpose in your life, status in society and using all your natural talents and tendencies, outlook and behaviours, attitudes and feelings.

So if you want happy, healthy relationships and a lifestyle you like to live, then meeting your needs and the right to these things is important and cannot be neglected or negated by you or others.

You can still help and support others without sacrificing yourself and your needs. If you’re tired, rest and relax not get up at someone’s demand or expectation. If you’re ill, rest and recover not ignore your needs to meet someone else’s.

They too have the responsibility, like you, to meet their needs. With help yes, often, but not always from the same person or people. Sometimes you have to look wider, be a little uncomfortable and try someone new or ask for something elsewhere or even sort it themselves, if you usually do it for them.

If you want the time and space back you have given to someone, that too is OK. Just because ‘you’ve always done it’ doesn’t mean to say you have to keep doing it. Things will change for you and them and therefore what you and they can offer will also change at times.

It’s OK to change your mind or not do it every time and maybe reduce the commitment you have previously been giving someone or something. You have the right to live your life the way that suits you, meets your needs in the given moment or overall and week to week or year on year.  

Change is inevitable in life and living and this is just one aspect that you can change when you recognise you want or have to – signs like irritation, resentment, frustration and anger, unhappiness or sadness. Step back, look at what is happening and what triggers these feelings and emotions and then act on that and manage the stressor!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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