When it Feels Like You’re Pouring from an Empty Cup

Recognizing the need for self-care.

Recently, I realized that I was unable to assume my usual role of “shoulder to cry on,” because I needed the shoulder. A friend and I were working our way through similar situations. There were discussions about who should do what, the meaning, and point of it all. It was mostly one-sided, with me listening and offering advice. Until I became aware that I couldn’t. I was tired. Too tired to be that person for my friend, this time.

In my friend’s defense she made the offer to be there for me as well if needed. But I wasn’t ready. I was processing it all in my head, which was far too exhausting and saddening to compound with an actual verbal discussion. So, probably for the first time ever, I felt I had to make myself a little less available for Dr. Phil impersonations.

My mental and emotional tank was on empty. Continuing to try and give of myself was creating a deficit. It was making me feel even worse because I could barely muster enough energy for my own issues, let alone to share with the issues of another. I’d never flat-out refuse a friend in need, but I had to just take some time to myself, be a bit less accessible and more frequently in “yoga class,” unable to talk. I had to let go for a moment, with love.

I also recently cut down on monetary contributions to some local charities. This was difficult for me and long overdue because I know that there are people out there who need help much more desperately than I ever have. It’s important to me to be of service and do my part in supporting our fellow human beings when they need it the most. Plus, I truly believe that helping others helps you. It all comes back around.

Some unexpected expenses had come up that were weighing on me. I knew that the funds I had going to these organizations would be of great use. At the very least I could get it all taken care of more quickly. But, like I said, that was the last place from which I wanted to take. I’d feel bad. With this mindset, I went on for a while struggling and clawing, hoping what I needed would fall from the sky and into my lap.

Then it dawned on me. The quicker I resolve my own financial matters, the quicker I can get back to donating with a grateful, cheerful heart. I focused more on the additional abundant ways to help those less fortunate. I can still give of my time, my physical abilities and other invaluable resources. Just less from my pockets, for now.

When we feel low, defeated, insignificant or unloved, it’s time to engage in some serious, guiltless self-care. Because the likely cause of this outlook is that we aren’t addressing our own needs. Or, it feels like we’re always there for others but no one is there for us. This feeling sucks, but just means we need to go all in on being there for ourselves.

There is such a thing as a healthy level of selfishness. Though some who want the focus and attention constantly on them would have us believe otherwise. We can’t be giving of ourselves to a fault — And those who truly care for us shouldn’t allow it. We can’t live 100 percent for others, place their needs above our own then wonder why we’re unfulfilled and hurting. Self-neglect is sure to result in self-loathing. We may even begin to resent those very people we’ve been trying to help. Making the time for personal care benefits everyone around us as well.

It’s not permanent. Being unable to be there or assist this time doesn’t mean you can’t be available the next. Just, get yourself whole before you go giving away pieces.

Author of the critically acclaimed book on women and relationship status, “Single That.” https://www.amazon.com/dp/1687069786

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