Once upon a time, I gave my all. I gave my all to everyone and everything in my life. My eagerness to drain my own well came from a place of deep insecurity. I’d been left before, abandoned by both family, friends, and lovers. I took it hard. I was convinced that it was my fault- it had to have been, right? I didn’t give enough to make them recognize my value, so what was there to make you stay? Cue the long years throughout high school and college where the loudest part of my personality was my undying eagerness to people-please.
Once upon a different time, my life took a dramatic 180*. I was introduced to and became a devote practitioner of this new millennial religion called “self-love”. Now cue the endless Pinterest quotes and Instagram models telling me that I couldn’t possibly think of filling other’s cups from my own if mine was empty. These inspirational quotes became my Bible, my guiding source in life. Looking back, it is easy to see that I took it too far, but at the time, before walking off the plank, this was the mentality that I so required in order to evolve from a people-pleasing door mat to a person strong in their convictions.
I learned that it was okay to not be okay. I didn’t owe anyone a damn explanation. In fact, if someone demanded I explain myself, I determined I probably didn’t need them in my life. I deflected any responsibility and deemed these people as “toxic”.
Sometime early in my new-found devotion, I left a circus of a relationship, I healed from previous trauma (as much as one can heal from trauma), and I actively began working on myself. I strived to continue moving forward and always fought hard to covet my new source of peace.
I spent the next two years with very few relationships that were anything more than superficial. Work, gym, lovers, friends…I had my true blue go-to’s of course, but I can count those blessed people on one hand. And, as we know, adult friendships are very different from friendships in youth in terms of maintenance. Life happens, work happens, family happens…
So, what I’m trying to say is, I had no one to fact check me.
My self-love crossed a line into the realm of self-centeredness and selfishness.
What do I gain from this?
What have they done for me lately?
Can I use this to my advantage?
I covered the truth of these motives by telling myself that if I was in a position the be the one who gave more, did more, whatever more more more was, than the other person must be toxic and someone who negatively affected my mental health.
That is until I finally allowed someone into my life who not only had the balls to challenge my perspectives and habits but pushed me to do better. He pushed me to aspire to be the next version of myself in my journey of growth and maturity.
It was a struggle, to say the least. I had used the term “self-love” and cultivated many self-serving practices in the name of building myself back up. In reality, I deprived myself of the possibility of meeting new people that I wrote off purely because they wanted something from me without “giving” me something first. Selfish of me, much? I had associated the meaning of being a giver to being weak. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Being brave enough to put yourself out there by encompassing “more” takes way more balls than to shut yourself off and only endlessly consume from your environment.
Moving forward, I regularly rely on him as my team mate to continue to check me and support me in my growth, as I do for him as well. No one is perfect, especially when you’re attempting to navigate new waters.
I try to be better at balancing the cost of certain acts to my mental health to what the outcomes are. For instance, how can I give something to or do something for another person that could improve their well-being without draining my own cup? Instead of giving 100% all, or 100% nothing, what can I do in the middle? The Goldilocks of giving, if you will.
In doing so, I do feel more vulnerable, and I’m scared that I could still put myself in a situation to be taken advantage of. But I must learn to trust others good intentions until I have good reason to suspect otherwise. If someone actually is taking advantage of me, I suppose I tell myself that they obviously needed whatever they needed this time, but I will no longer expend any kind of energy on them. You got me this time, but now I’m smarter for it.
I encourage everyone to accept themselves and to accept others as they are. However, true growth comes from having a continuous and honest conversation with yourself. Self-evaluation can guide your path, and help you bloom. My advice would to make sure that whatever you bloom in to is closer to a giving tree and far from a weed.
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