One of my current favorite topics is the seemingly frequent struggle to balance self-care with caring for others. Many of us in this world are givers. It simply makes one feel good to give something to someone, or to help someone out. It does not matter if they know or not, it is the act of giving that feels good.
Seems so simple, right? If giving makes one feel good, then the more one gives, the better one should feel, correct? So what goes wrong, why are so many individuals walking around depleted? How often does one hear someone say “I have to start taking care of myself”, and then proceed to define “taking care of oneself” as not giving to others? Or I hear someone tell someone else that they “give too much” and encourage again the cessation of the outward energy flow?
My theory is the concern is not in giving too much, we have already established giving makes one feel good, and we know from Heartmath’s work that anything that makes us feel good renews us. I believe the concern is in not being “refilled” so the output far exceeds the input resulting in an ever widening gap and a sense of being depleted which quickly takes the shine and enjoyment out of giving. This same situation when taken to the extreme results in wonderful individuals becoming bitter martyrs. Feeling taken advantage of, and to compensate I see these amazing people slowly and steadily stop giving. The irony is that when giving is something you take pleasure from, the cessation of giving results in even less pleasure and fulfillment….exacerbating the contracting cycle. I bet we can all name many wonderful people we know personally who appear to be trapped in this cycle.
My working theory is there are several possible patterns running behind the scenes and as such, several solutions.
Situation # 1 – Inability or unwillingness to receive.
Many of those who are wired as givers seem equally as hardwired to be unable or unwilling to receive……..and if one constantly gives (output) without accepting anyone giving back to them to them (input), it is not hard to imagine the scales tipping and an ever widening and deepening chasm forming within one’s body. Eventually the well runs dry and there is nothing left from which to draw on to keep giving. The solution is not to stop giving…..the solution is to focus on refilling the well. Learn to receive from others. Like any pattern, once the first baby steps are made it gets easier and easier.
If this situation resonates with you, then it is up to you to consciously choose to break the pattern, the next time someone does something nice, says a kind word, opens a door, whatever it might be……simply accept whatever they have done, big or small with a thank you. Rein in your natural reaction of trying to return the favor or the compliment and just accept it with a simple thank you. Expect that the first time you do this it will feel really weird and uncomfortable. And only slightly less so the next time, but like any new pattern, in time it will become second nature.
Be aware that this pattern might be playing out in the form of physical actions, it might also be playing out in words. Examples here are the individuals who deflect every compliment by diminishing whatever it is they are being complimented on? Or deflect the compliment back to the giver by pointing out this applies to them also. If I just described you, try just saying thank you. Try just accepting the compliment. You might be surprised how tough this is the first time, but it gets easier in time. Complimenting someone else often has more meaning and depth when it is standalone rather than triggered by an “energetic need” to return the energy flow. Meaning that when you do bestow a compliment back to someone else, it will mean far more if it is not coming immediately after receiving the same.
So, what happens if the simple acceptance I am suggesting is the solution is simply too big of a step? Instead of fighting with yourself, using up even more of your limited resourced, try finding another place to receive from. Every pet owner I know receives limitless amounts of nurturing from their four legged companions. Even when the door is closed tightly to other humans, many of us have room to accept the caring from our animal companions, filling up our depleting tanks.
In addition to animals, the most powerful nurturer I am aware of is our own mother earth. Even if one is not yet able to receive from other humans, try receiving from animals and/or from nature It is no surprise that indigenous traditions, aka shamanism, or earth based traditions are becoming more and more mainstream. These teachings assist us in connecting into the power of the Earth’s elements and beginning to refill our drained batteries from her deep and fertile supply. The simple act of learning to ground and connect to the earth, and remembering to ask her for support, goes a long ways towards charging up ones batteries. We have long known how great we feel after a day in nature. Earth traditions teach us how to connect even when we cannot actually be outside.
Just like a river that carves a channel out and then stays in this familiar channel until such time as an unusual volume of water (aka a flood) creates a change, Humans carve out patterns and we keep repeating these familiar patterns until something forces us to change, and at the beginning it takes far more effort to change then it does to repeat the familiar pattern.