I think we have begun to romanticize sacrifice.
I think it has become this concept that we talk about and write about and hear and witness; the more of yourself you are willing to sacrifice to make someone you love happy, the more you must love them. I get it. This is not a crazy concept. When it comes to the people I love, I would do just about anything for them. If I could take away their pain that life places on them, I would in a heartbeat. I like that about myself. I like that for the most part I have a heart that sometimes feels like a well. It is full and at times seems like there is endless amount of space for everyone to fit. However, I have found myself slip into a pattern where I allow myself to be miserable in order to make other people happy, and it is incredibly unhealthy.
I believed for a long time that having a big heart, being vulnerable, being empathetic made me weak. Now I know that it is my greatest strength and it makes me who I am. Sometimes though, old habits die hard and it feels like recently my greatest strength became my greatest weakness.
I have gone to counseling several different times of my life. The most recent time I was going, there was a trend in a lot of my sessions. My counselor told me that I need to work on “self care.” To someone like me, who likes quick and easy answers to my problems, that really was not what I wanted to hear. I didn’t want to work on me, I wanted to fix and adjust all the things around me.
Here are some things over the past year that I have learned about this strange concept of “self care.” I learned to stop settling for things that are making my day to day life crappy. I have learned to say “no” to people. I have learned that I cannot expect my body to properly operate when I am not giving it any nutrients and excess caffeine. I have learned that while being a social person, I need time to recharge, and that is okay. I have learned that it is not healthy to run myself dry to keep other filled. For me, taking care of myself has been largely about how much of myself I am willing to give to the world, and to all the people in my world. I have learned that it isn’t selfish, but healthy, to keep enough of myself to stay whole.
I have always denied the fact that I am a “people pleaser.” I think in a lot of ways, I’m not. I don’t keep my opinions on things to myself. I am not always agreeable for the sake of not being argumentative. I don’t care if people like the way I dress or like the music I play in my car. However, I like seeing people happy. I like seeing people be the best version of themselves. Somewhere along the line though, I think I lost touch with if I was the best version of myself.
I haven’t written in a long time. It has been months since I have just sat down and wrote something that actually felt like me. If I wrote something, it didn’t feel like it was for me, it felt forced. I think maybe one of the little pieces I started to sacrifice was the part of me that knew how to make my thoughts actually turn into words. I sometimes have moments where I feel like I am disappearing because that part of me has felt so far out of reach. I think it’s time I take that part of me back though, because that piece is one of my favorites. That piece is a key to my survival.
More than anything, I have spent excessive amounts of energy on things that just don't make me very happy. I come home at the end of the day and I realize I wasted all my valuable energy on things and thoughts that don't matter to me, I didn't save enough for myself.
I am a work in progress. I am so far from where I want to be. I don't think I will ever get over the desire I have to see people become the very best version of themselves. I'm working on not leaving myself out. I am working on not pouring all of myself out in order to keep other people full. I hope the same is true for you. It is okay to take care of yourself, in fact it is highly encouraged.
Anything based in love is based in a give and take. Love is about making each other better and leaving things better than how you found them. I am working really hard on not turning sacrifice into the only act of love I know.