Have you spent your life putting everyone else’s needs before your own? Have you struggled with the idea of putting yourself first? Have you believed that if you love and give of yourself enough, you can heal or fix someone else? Then you and I have shared a similar journey — to learn to overcome the need to “give of ourselves to others” and to learn to look after ourselves.
When I look back, I can attribute some of my need to give, “do for”, fix, heal, and “make better” to the generation in which I was born. I am part of the cohort that transitioned from growing up with traditional female role models to forging our own way as independent women. Our mothers and grandmothers devoted their lives to their families. They modelled selfless giving and self-sacrifice as they cared for their families and put their needs first. I realize that part of my tendency to put others first originates with my early conditioning, but it is not the whole reason. That modelling served to reinforce the true reason — my feeling that I wasn’t enough, my inner sense of lack.
The core of the reason that I felt compelled to “give of myself to others” was my lack of self-worth, and… if I want to be completely honest with myself… as I grew in my own sense of worth and self-love, this need was seasoned with a generous sprinkling of ego. For much of my life, I struggled with self-worth. I sought my worth in what I felt reflected back from others. I realize now what a shaky foundation this was for finding self-worth because I experienced happiness if I felt affirmed by others, but if that affirmation didn’t come, as it often did not, I felt deflated and insecure. I had no solid ground within me for knowing who I am and for realizing my worth.
As I sought feelings of worth, I believed that the more selfless I was and the more I gave to others, the better a person I would be. Being selfless and giving to others are noble traits, but my journey has taught me that they need to be expressed from a strong sense of self. I gave of myself to try to feel good about myself… so that I could feel that I was a good person. I didn’t understand that true giving has to come from a strong inner foundation of self-awareness and self-worth so that it can be actually be an act of love and not one of seeking validation. I found myself in situations where I literally gave myself away and became so depleted that I had nothing more to give anyone… and certainly nothing left for me. I felt shattered, empty, and completely lost.
I was lost. I was looking for my worth where it cannot be found… in others. I had to find my own worth… within myself… and I was the only one who could do it. Thus, I began my journey to learn to love myself. (You can read about that journey in my blog post: Discovering the Love of My Life.) I turned to self-help books and spiritual teachers. I read and journalled, reflected and prayed, and read some more. I grew within. I felt more inner strength, and I made progress with learning to love myself. As I felt stronger and more self-confident, I vowed to live from my heart because that was the only way I felt I could live fully and deeply. I was on the right track. However, part of my thinking was incorrect. You see, I believed that I was healing myself, and while that belief is empowering, it was also my ego talking. “Look at me. I healed myself, and now, I can help others heal. If I can make myself feel better, I can make others feel better too.” I believed this desire was an expression of my heart. Looking back, I hear the voice of ego in my beliefs.
I committed to a relationship believing that I could be the light in someone’s darkened world, believing that I could love another better. What an incredible lesson awaited me in that relationship (more on that in a later post)! After experiencing the cycle of addiction and years of heartbreak, my “light” was almost extinguished and I realized that I had to look after me.
I left that relationship and turned to God for guidance and healing. When I turned to God and began to remember who I really am as God’s Child, I began to recognize my worth. I found my truth through my study of the Course in Miracles. These universal truths resonated within me, and I felt the ring of their truth within the core of my being. As I studied, I felt my inner Self expand into this Knowing until now, I feel at peace within myself for the first time in my life. When I go within, God’s Love is always here for me, and as I grow, I feel His Light in and around me, giving me the strength and love I have always sought from those who cannot give it to me. I realize now that it wasn’t for them to give me. My journey has been to remember who I am as a Child of God and to stand strong, complete, and inherently worthy in this Knowing.
I continue to give and help others, but I give from an inner space that is grounded in God’s Love. As I give love to others, there is evermore to give. Instead of feeling depleted by giving, I feel empowered. I don’t feel the need to “do for others” so I can feel worth; I “do for others” because I AM worthy and because it gives me joy to do so. I come from an inner place that feels complete now, and so I can give from an everlasting Source, which you may call by a different name, but which I call God.
I don’t need to be a caregiver or a fixer to try to find worth. I care and I give because I am a Child of God, as you are, and that Truth opens me to eternal Love and to the gift of giving.