Share this with someone who might benefit.

You give, you adapt, and you change who you are almost to your very core… to what end?

When you are overly compassionate to others, you might actually be taking away from yourself. This is as harmful to your mind as a lack of sleep is to your body. 

I want to start by emphasizing the importance of enforcing your personal boundaries—what you will and won’t accept in your life, which is my definition of personal boundaries. Upholding these boundaries is an act of self-care.

Many people reach out to me saying they don’t want to hurt someone else or appear selfish by doing something they need for themselves. They’re unsure how to proceed without feeling guilty or causing pain.

My immediate reaction when I encounter this sentiment is to ask, why shouldn’t you prioritize your own nurturing? Consider how long it’s been since you’ve taken care of yourself without a hint of guilt, worry, or stress.

Shouldn’t those who love you encourage your self-care?

Take my partner, for instance. She adores plant sales. If she wants to attend one, I support her. However, there was a time when I would have felt abandoned by her desire to do something without me. My past self would wonder, why not do something together?

In a healthy relationship, shared activities are enjoyable and welcoming, devoid of toxicity, possessiveness, jealousy, or fear. It’s simply a choice to do something enjoyable together. But my past fears of rejection and abandonment would surface when she did things on her own, leading me to worry that she might realize she’s happier without me, potentially leading to a breakup.

This mindset is crucial to understand because there are people who may exhibit clingy, possessive, and sometimes jealous behavior, wanting to spend excessive time together. Such traits can impact a relationship negatively, stripping you of your autonomy and your right to independence. You need and deserve time to yourself.

Alone time is essential. It allows you to decompress, disconnect from others, and recharge. It’s akin to sleeping at night when your brain detaches from reality, allowing you to dream or rest, resetting and re-energizing for the next day.

Imagine being at work almost 24/7. Thankfully, most aren’t, but some relationships can feel that way. If you’re always with someone, when do you get time for yourself? And when you do find a moment alone, is it a healthy, self-nurturing experience? You have a right to that autonomy, to be yourself on your own terms.

This brings me to a message I received from someone who felt pressured into the role of being selfish for making decisions independently within their relationship. They were planning to leave, having recognized manipulation and their own enabling of abusive behavior. The idea of being selfish for wanting to take care of oneself stood out to me.

It’s not selfish to prioritize your well-being.

Desiring time for oneself or deciding to leave a situation that no longer benefits either party isn’t selfish—it’s self-nurturing. However, we often mislabel it as selfishness, which leads to guilt and stress, especially when we anticipate that the other person might experience a negative reaction.

Yet, they, too, must engage in self-nurturing practices. It’s not your job to manage someone else’s thoughts, emotions, or feelings. You might try, and I know many readers of this article and listeners of my show might do just that, but ultimately, you’re not responsible for those things. You’re not your loved one’s coach or mentor.

Sure, we all step into those roles occasionally to support the people closest to us, hoping to guide them toward happiness. We do our best to assist, but there’s a limit to what we can do. Sometimes, what a person needs exceeds what a partner or family member can provide.

For example, my partner has certain issues that, despite my best intentions, I simply can’t help her with. Being deeply involved in her life, I’m perhaps too close to the situation to offer the objective support she might need.

She has a particular trigger that’s been a challenge since we met. We’ve discussed it, and I’ve tried to be a non-judgmental, unbiased support. While I’ve been able to assist with many things, there are certain issues where I need to step back and recognize my limitations. It could be because I’m part of her current relationship, and that in itself might disqualify me from helping with issues related to past relationships.

I’m here for her when she wants to talk, but I also accept that there are things I can’t help her with, and I’m okay with that. Sharing this is important because it underscores that we can’t always be the solution for those we love. There comes a time when we must step back and acknowledge our inability to assist, perhaps suggesting that someone else might be better suited to help. It’s not an obligation to take on their issues.

Even if you are a therapist, coach, or mentor by profession, there are moments when stepping back is necessary because you can’t solve every problem. This is especially true for the people-pleasers out there, but it applies to anyone who believes they must handle everything. You might feel compelled to be the one to care for them, to make them happy, to alleviate their pain, but sometimes that’s just not possible.

You have to be at peace with the fact that you might be too close to the situation, caught up in the same toxicity or confusion, or simply lacking the necessary perspective because you’re on the inside looking out.

Being an observer from within means you’re part of the equation that needs solving, and sometimes, you can’t be the one to solve it. Being an outside observer, where emotional ties aren’t as deep and commitments aren’t as binding, provides a different perspective because you’re not entangled in the situation.

I take pride in my ability to detach emotionally and offer help to my partner and those I care about. However, I must acknowledge that sometimes I’m too close to the issue at hand, and I need to take a step back to realize that the person in question needs to engage in self-care.

This might mean they need to seek assistance from a professional, a close friend, or someone else who can pose the questions I may not have considered or perhaps shouldn’t ask. It’s a relief to acknowledge this.

Yet, this detachment isn’t always beneficial for the relationship or the other person involved because we all have triggers. They trigger us, we trigger them, and because of this, maintaining an equal footing can be challenging. In a healthy relationship, it’s possible to lean on each other for support and have deep, meaningful conversations without the fear of triggering or being triggered.

When there’s mutual trust and respect, you can discuss nearly anything. With that foundation, taking time for self-nurturing isn’t questioned with fears of abandonment or doubts about what one is doing alone. Instead, the healthy response in a relationship is encouragement: “Enjoy your time. Make the most of it. I look forward to seeing you when you return. Have fun.”

However, not everyone is on board with supporting their partner’s happiness. They might be in survival mode, or they might exhibit controlling or manipulative behaviors, either knowingly or unconsciously. These individuals might not understand how to stop because they’re relying on harmful coping mechanisms learned in childhood.

When triggered, they might react in hurtful ways to protect themselves from what they perceive as harm. For instance, if you go out to enjoy yourself, this could trigger their fears of abandonment or rejection.

Not everyone falls into this category; some aren’t possessive or jealous but may still engage in hurtful, controlling, or manipulative behaviors. I’ve spoken with many people who are extremely clingy, needy, and sometimes desperate to maintain a tight hold on their relationships, squeezing the life out of their partners.

I strive to help them see the impact of holding on too tightly—it’s emotionally suffocating. Even if a person isn’t clingy or jealous, controlling and manipulative behaviors can still drain your energy and power, leaving you feeling emotionally suffocated.

Describing it as a tight grip that slowly suffocates might sound harsh, but it’s a reality for many, unfortunately.

Being in a relationship with someone who’s overly controlling can strip away your autonomy and independence—two things that everyone deserves and should never feel guilty about embracing.

If you find yourself feeling selfish for taking time for self-care, it’s time to eradicate that thought from your mind.

Self-nurturing isn’t selfish. It’s essential.

Just like setting personal boundaries isn’t an attack on others. It’s a step toward ensuring your own well-being. These boundaries are there to make you feel safe, comfortable, and content, and anyone who truly cares for you would want that for you.

When both people in a relationship genuinely desire each other’s safety, comfort, and happiness, you’ve got the makings of a healthy, satisfying, and fulfilling partnership.

Remember, self-nurturing is not only permissible, but it’s also beneficial. It keeps you energized and maintains balance in your life. It’s crucial to bring the best version of yourself to a relationship, and if someone is preventing you from being your best or from improving, it’s a red flag.

Sometimes, it might lead to a difficult conversation or even the need to consider an exit strategy, as one person shared with me. They expressed a desire to find the strength and courage to leave but found themselves caught in a loop of responsibility for their partner. This is the trap of excessive compassion, where you end up neglecting yourself.

Sure, there should be enough compassion to go around, but if you’re running on empty, what do you really have to give? Giving from a place of deficit often feels obligatory, perhaps driven by guilt or fear. It’s crucial to fill your own cup first, ensuring that you’re not constantly giving without replenishing your own reserves.

In many emotionally abusive relationships, there’s a pattern of constant giving, adapting, and trying harder, which leads to an imbalance that typically comes at the expense of the one who is overly compassionate and giving. They may believe they’re doing the right thing, the loving thing, because of their commitment, but they overlook the importance of self-care and recharging their own batteries.

It’s like the well-known safety instruction on airplanes: put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. If you don’t have enough to give, you’ll be giving from a place of lack, depleting your reserves even further.

And I know some of you reading this are thinking, “My reserves are already depleted. This is my reality, my life for the past several months or years. I’m already in the thick of it!”

This is exactly what I want to prevent! This is precisely why I’m sharing this message with you. If you’re finding yourself in a similar situation, or if you’re on the verge of experiencing an imbalance or deficit in your life, hold onto this thought: it’s okay to prioritize self-care.

Actually, it’s not just okay—it’s necessary. Consider how the body demands sleep. You might pull an all-nighter, but try skipping sleep the following night. It’s nearly impossible because your body will insist on rest.

Similarly, we often block our emotional needs. Many of us deny ourselves the essential self-care and self-compassion that we desperately need.

You absolutely need self-care. You need time to yourself. You need a space where you can feel comfortable and secure, even if it’s just for a few moments, without worrying about someone else’s reaction. It’s one of the key ingredients to maintaining balance in your life.

And if you’re anxious or stressed about someone’s response to your self-care, first, remind them that you need this time for yourself. Second, if they react negatively or express fears, then A: Remind them that it’s important you get time to yourself. And B: If they don’t like that, or they have fears about it, don’t make their fears your problem.

That sounds cold, I realize. But their need for self-care is their responsibility, just as yours is to you.

If you’re considering leaving a relationship, remember that your partner has their own journey of self-care to embark on.

I’m operating under the assumption that we’re all adults here, so it’s reasonable to expect that another adult can manage their own needs while you attend to yours. After all, you’re not their parent unless, of course, we’re actually talking about your child, which I’m not.

You shouldn’t have to play the role of a parent to your partner, constantly trying to appease them or alleviate their fears of abandonment. It’s like what my partner often points out about others: ‘Sometimes, you just have to put on your big boy pants and face life’s challenges head-on.’

Indeed, life can throw us curveballs and present us with obstacles that require us to mature and take responsibility for ourselves. If you’re with someone who either treats you like a child or needs you to parent them, offering them endless comfort and reassurance due to their fears, you might not be the right person to help them.

Often, such individuals remain in this state until they seek help, read something enlightening, or take steps to reflect and improve on their own. They’ve found in you a source to help regulate their emotions, providing constant reassurance, which can prevent them from addressing their own issues.

People in this situation may think they need continuous reassurance when what they truly need is to work on their self-worth, self-esteem, and fears of abandonment or rejection—issues that you’re likely unable to resolve for them.

You can offer love and compassion, but even then, they may not overcome their fears, may still be triggered, and may continue to exhibit abusive behaviors.

The best you can do in a situation like this is take care of yourself and hope they do the same.

Share this with someone who might benefit.

Paul Colaianni

Host of Love and Abuse and The Overwhelmed Brain

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x