I hate to hurt people. I’ve always known this about myself, but I have never seen it play out quite so intricately or intensely as it did in the past few weeks.
Now I know what you may be thinking.
That’s a good thing. It means you’re a decent human being.
Perhaps. I can’t say for certain. What I do know is that my need to avoid hurting others at all cost can, and probably will someday be detrimental to me. The fact of the matter is, I often find myself at a disadvantage for the sake of not hurting feelings. I often would rather accept, tolerate, and allow things that I don’t want if it means I don’t have to hurt someone I care for.
As much as I’d love to liken myself to Mother Teresa levels in terms of my selflessness, I have to acknowledge that there’s a fine line between selflessness and stupidity. And I’ve worn a path out on that line.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a giver. A generous one at that. I’ll give my time, resources, effort, love, almost everything I have to almost anyone who is bold enough to ask. One major drawback of being a giver in this world that we live in is that we are far outnumbered by takers. People who will extend their hands and grab at everything you have to offer with no considerations for the limitations of your offerings.
But that’s just it. I. Have. Limits.
If every day I withdraw from a bank account without ever making a deposit, eventually that bank account will go empty. It doesn’t matter how much was in it to begin.
I wish I could make a grand declaration that those days are over. That I will no longer give freely or generously to whomever takes it upon themselves to ask. That I will always think of myself first before anyone else. But I can’t. Because even that end of the spectrum feels wrong. I can’t stop giving. I can’t stop considering others first. Quite frankly, I really don’t want to. Luckily, there are things that I can do. And if you’re a giver like I am, I urge you to consider these tips as well.
1. Consider yourself as well: You don’t have to stop thinking about others first. You do have to stop thinking about others only. You have needs as well. You have desires as well. Feeding another person does not always require that you go hungry.
2. You are NOT obligated to do or give anything: Unless you are a guardian to a minor, there is not a single human being on this planet to whom you are obligated. I don’t care who they are. Your parents, your siblings, brothers, sisters, or significant others. You are not obligated. On a similar note, if everything you do for a person is done out of feelings of obligation, it’s highly likely that you’re in a toxic relationship. Consider that.
3. You can’t help everyone: Of course, that’s no excuse to help no one. But at the end of the day, you are only one person with limited resources. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to turn someone away empty-handed if it means protecting your mental health, or your finances, your energy, or even just your sanity. Dealing with other people is tiring. So don’t be afraid to take time to replenish yourself. Don’t be afraid to take care of you. It’s not selfish, it’s responsible.
4. Some people will never get enough from you: There are people who are only in your life because of what they can get from you. Be aware of who these people are and be strict with your limits. You may notice that you begin to lose friends once you begin to enforce your boundaries. Consider it the trash taking itself out.
5. Some takers don’t know they’re takers: It may seem a little odd, but not everyone is aware of themselves. Not everyone is adept at reflecting on themselves and understanding who they are as a person. That’s okay. We are all in different places on our journey. That’s not an excuse. Don’t be afraid to communicate to someone the draining effects they are having on you. Don’t be afraid to tell someone that they are asking or expecting too much of you. The way they react is up to them, but it’s up to you to take the first step to protecting yourself.
6. Your fellow givers need encouraging too: As a giver, one of the very best feelings I’ve experienced is meeting another giver. This is someone who knows what it’s like to feel drained and unappreciated because you’ve given all of yourself away. Replenish each other. Remind each other of the above five tips. Take care of each other. And always remember: givers deserve to receive as well.