Months ago, I was told I needed to be selfish and less selfless and self-sacrificing. I took that advice to heart (although I was criticized by the same person for finally taking that perspective). It took me a while but one day, I realized that it felt good to be selfish and put myself first once in a while. I stopped caring about who my actions or feelings upset because I was not causing hurt to anyone. I became happier because I wasn’t sacrificing myself in the process. At first, putting myself first felt weird and it carried some guilt with it but with time, I realized that if I didn’t do it, people would continue to step all over me.
Now, my stress levels are down and well, people are unhappy. But the fact is that they were unhappy before. I thought that my catering to others, I was making them happy but all I got was hurt. I catered to the point of my own unhappiness.
I thought by self-sacrificing meant being a good person and someone who helped others. I sought acceptance of others, rather than self-acceptance, and that was hurting me more than anything. I was tolerant of others and their faults, was afraid to be harsh because I hated that for myself and I stuck with others even when they weren’t there for me. Moreover, I always suffered alone and shouldered my own burdens alone. I never asked for help and I hated being fussed over. I endured. I was patient. I tolerated. I was considerate, ethical, and honest. I was generous and was willing to give the shirt of my back and never waited to be asked. All for what reason? For acceptance? I self-sacrificed for acceptance? Does that make any sense? Why did I do that? I don’t know anymore.
All of our lives, we have been told to give. We are told to share since childhood. Our religions tell us to give others and we are told God loves us the more we give. Every charity makes us feel so bad we feel we have to give. Some of us have taken one message out of this – give until hurts and then some. Of course, giving isn’t wrong but if you are always giving and never receiving, then you are giving others permission to expect permanent things from you. If you are always the one who continually forgives and always bending over backwards for others, you are sacrificing your own happiness in the process. After all, you are entitled to receive and put yourself first sometimes.
I am not saying to stop giving or helping or apologizing. I am saying stop being taken advantage of. Stop being so selfless and self-sacrificing. Step letting others step all over you until you have nothing left to give. I am talking from experience – a whole lot of it!
We train people to take advantage of us and it has taken me most of my adult life and a whole lot of therapy to understand that. If you are over-giving and people are not grateful, appreciative happy and caring towards you and expect more, then you have done all you can do and then some. I have learned to the secret to knowing when you should and shouldn’t give is by listening to your heart, your body, your mind and your soul. If you are giving to manipulate, then that is not healthy and if you are giving for acceptance or second chances, that is just as bad. Your heart, mind, body and soul will speak for you when something doesn’t feel right so listen carefully.
When you feel overwhelmed about giving or you feel you have done all you can do, take a step back and observe the imbalance. If you don’t like what you are seeing or feeling, get your courage on and change the situation. You are responsible for your own life. Every adult is responsible for their own life and it is not your job to be selfless and self-sacrificing to fix or accommodate other adults. For me, that understanding is a major breakthrough that actually feels really good.
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