Sometimes we function like dry-cell batteries, discharging without a recharger to plug into. Our span may be longer and less measurable, but the outflow drain is as real. We all need replenishment, and we are responsible for giving that to ourselves — to make ourselves a priority.
Having raised four children, both while married and with many years as a single mother, I ‘get it.’ Time for myself — how do I manage that? With all the demands of a marriage, a work life, and children’s needs and schedules, where do my personal desires fit? The answer is: “For a long time, they didn’t.”
That is, not until I made a decision to prioritize myself. I began to look inside and check out what was really important to me. I consciously thought about what I genuinely wanted to give to others and what I desired for myself.
Through this self-reflection, I sourced my pattern of self-neglect and began to pin-point signs that I was giving too much in my relationships. What did all of these signs have in common? None of them felt good! Do you see yourself in any of them?
1. Putting too little focus on your own needs and desires.
Have you forgotten the first and most important relationship in your life: your relationship with yourself? Have you forgotten that what happens in your life is not only about events, but how you hold events in your mind? Your interpretation of what happens shapes your life as powerfully as the events themselves.
Your moment-to-moment and day-by-day choices shape your life. You are the source of your priorities and preferences — the choice maker of what, to whom, and how much you give. How you think and access your emotions informs you of what makes you happy or sad, angry or afraid. The more you focus on what you value and what makes you happy, the more satisfied you will be.
2. Feeling a sense of depletion — emotional, and sometimes physical exhaustion.
Breathing is basic to life, inhaling and exhaling, replenishment and release in balance are required for a healthy body. The same is true for a healthy emotional life, giving and receiving. When we are giving out far more than we are replenishing ourselves, we will experience physical and emotional depletion.
Are you asking your relationship for what you want? Is your intimate partner aware of what pleases you? What you need? Does he/she sufficiently offer that to you? Does he/she respect your need for privacy and alone time? Are you asking to share responsibilities to lighten your load?
3. Frequent feelings of anger, bitterness, and feeling trapped.
When we are not giving ourselves what we need — time for ourselves, listening to ourselves, giving value to ourselves, pleasure and relaxation, we feel deprived. This often shows up as anger and resentment. Frequently we feel victimized in our relationships, which as adults is an indication that we are not taking responsibility for our choices. What small steps can you make towards giving time and attention to yourself as a priority? Notice what you feel when you make those choices.
4. Depression: a sense of hopelessness, an inability to perceive brightness and happiness.
Depression is an extreme result of anger and bitterness turned inward. Many do not have access to their anger, so it sits inside unexpressed as pollution against the self. Be willing to face what makes you angry so you can release it and then make rational decisions to remedy the cause. There are safe ways to express anger. Dance it out, physical exercise, beating a pillow with a bat or bataka, talk to a friend, go to a therapist, acknowledge it in writing. Once you understand what is causing the anger you are ready to resolve the issue effectively.
5. An absence of sexual interest.
Sex, another form of pleasure, is off the radar to a woman burdened by her unacknowledged, unexpressed angry feelings. A woman who is angry, pained, overworked, unacknowledged and feeling unappreciated has little energy to give to her responsibilities, let alone her pleasures. Her unexpressed emotions and lack of attention to her sexual desire separate her from the most intimate expressions of herself, both emotionally and sexually.
In short, the reason that you are feeling that you are giving too much to your relationships is that either you are not receiving enough from your partner or giving enough to yourself. In any case, you will feel better giving pleasure to yourself.
Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers on your way home from work. Or just a single, beautiful rose.
Light a candle and put some beautiful music on as you luxuriate in a warm bath.
Take a walk in the park and watch the children playing happily.
Call a friend that you can be honest and open with.
Put lovely skin cream all over your body.
Give yourself some pleasure. It is remarkable medicine!