Some people have to learn how not to be selfish. That doesn't make them inherently "bad" people; We all have things we have to learn to be better about that come naturally to others. We often hear about people who are selfish, and how that's a problem. But what about people whose problem lies at the other end of the generosity spectrum? What about people who would do anything — who would sometimes give too much of themselves, more than is healthy for them — for the people they love? While selflessness is undoubtedly a good quality, and the world could probably benefit from having more people in it who weren't exclusively looking out for themselves, we need to not undervalue the potential damage that comes from being someone who puts yourself last.
For those of you who are naturally "givers," you know the hardest thing is coming to terms with the fact that not everybody will love you the same way you love them. Harder yet is the fact that no amount of love you douse them with can change this – and sometimes, you just have to know when to walk away. Selflessness is among the most noble and admired traits for a reason. It's hard and it's kind, it's the most worthwhile way to spend our days. Yet (there's always a "yet" isn't there?) sometimes the fault of bearing too heavily into the part of you that wants to love other people more is forgetting that nobody is obligated to love you, and you can't force anybody to... that is, nobody but yourself. Here, the five things that people who do anything for the people they love have to remember to do for themselves:
Walk away when you really can't help — or when sticking around will be bad for you
This is the best and the worst truth you'll ever learn: You can't save people. You can only love them. It's usually a matter of knowing whether you're placating self-pity, or you're actually giving them empathetic support (and all too often, when things start getting frustrating, it's the first). And when you want to help but can't, or are putting yourself in a position that might be emotionally or physically dangerous for you, the most important thing you can do for yourself is know when to walk away.
Let the people you love fall and fail
Things usually don't click for people until they experience it themselves. We're lectured and taught and well-read in all the world's codes of conduct. We know what's healthy, and at some level, we know what's right for us in the moment, and yet, we don't always act on it, because we believe something to be truer. Sometimes (OK, most of the time) it takes a breakdown to get to a breakthrough. Love the people in your life enough to do that for them. Step back and let them find their own way.
Determine who puts you first, in the same way you do for everyone else
If you're feeling empty or exhausted, it's probably because you're not receiving what you're putting out. If this is the case, learn to exert your time and energy and attention on people who naturally reciprocate.
Love people without taking on their burdens
You can love someone endlessly and still learn to nod and listen and hold space while they vent and not feel as though it's now your problem to solve. You can respectfully say no, you can't do that thing or run that errand or hang out for another 9 hours, because something else must also take priority in your life. This isn't loving people less. This is learning to love yourself enough.
Learn to be as kind to yourself, too
Learn to do for yourself what you'd do for anybody else. Love yourself the way you'd love anybody else. Literally – the way you do for other people. Be aware of your needs. Be kind to yourself. Know that nobody is obligated to put you first but you – and that you can't actually help anybody else until you're taken care of first.
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