Connecting With Others
Creating connections can be difficult. Making plans with people that fall through and being available for others is not always easy. Growing and building friendships and relationships takes commitment, flexibility, and persistence. It’s important to give in relationships—no one wants to feel taken advantage of—but when it comes to self-love and self-care, I’ve come to the realization that sometimes the best choice is to starting giving less.
I know. What?
Giving Less is Self-Care
Really, though. Start giving less. Not a lot, but a little bit.
I’m not saying to stop interacting with people, or stop trying to make plans, check-in, and emotionally support your friends.
Definitely keep doing those things. I repeat. Keep doing those things.
Keep reaching out, connecting and sharing, loving and caring, but also be evaluative of the relationships in your life. Part of self-love is not over-extending yourself to the point of exhaustion, or to the point of putting your priorities below another’s.
In our relationships, its valuable to ask ourselves 3 questions, not with judgement, but with curiosity and sincere assessment:
1. What am I gaining from this relationship?
2. Does this relationship add to or subtract from my well-being?
3. How can I help this relationship grow in a positive direction?
Some Brief Examples
Sometimes we have friends who call us all the time for advice, but don’t ever check in with how we are doing. Or maybe we have friends who always bail on plans at the last minute, after we’ve changed our entire schedule to accommodate theirs.
Sometimes we have significant others whose dreams and goals we prioritize over our own. We might have family members with whom it’s difficult to have relationships with for one reason or another.
At some point in my life, I’ve experienced all of the above, and in each instance, I had to honestly assess what needed to happen for me to maintain the relationship. The answers to the above questions were different, and so were the solutions, but it was always helpful to my own well-being when I listened to my instinct, and took practical steps towards creating a solution.
Be kinder to yourself. And then let your kindness flood the world.-Pema Chodron
For instance, that friend who would flake even when I’d changed my schedule around? I stopped trying so hard to accommodate, sticking more firmly to my plans for the day, instead of orienting my life around spending time with that person. What ended up happening was I still got to see my friend, but I also wasn’t so frustrated when the plan fell through.
The difficult relationship with a family member? I honestly assessed in what ways the relationship detracted from my well-being, and created boundaries to protect myself when we did spend time together. The specifics aren’t important, because they change so greatly for each of us in assessing our relationships.
Connecting With Myself
What remains consistent throughout each of these examples is a desire to love myself enough to assess the relationships so that I could maintain them in a way that best honored me, without becoming angry with the other person. When we give too much of ourselves, it takes a toll on us, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I’ve had times when I felt my spirit was drained by a relationship, when I was mentally exhausted by trying to connect, or emotionally distraught from the chaos of a toxic relationship.
Giving Less and Loving More
Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.-Eleanor Brownn
It’s valuable to give less sometimes, because it means we can maintain relationships on our terms, in ways that are most beneficial to our self-respect and self-love, without hurting, shaming, or denigrating another person. Evaluating our relationships allows us to be loving with ourselves while still being loving and respectful with others.
Giving Until You Break
There have been several times in my life when instead of evaluating, from a place of compassion and self-love, what I needed from a relationship, I instead lashed out. I was reactive rather than responsive, and allowed myself to pass the point of frustration, into the realm of anger and antagonism. Those relationships were damaged, sometimes to the point of ending, sometimes not. With either result, there was still a lot of hurt and sadness that could have been avoided if I had learned that giving less wasn’t a bad thing.
Honoring Each Other
We are taught to always give more of ourselves, but sometimes giving less is the best we can do, because we are honoring ourselves.
In doing so, we can honor the other person with our genuine goal to move forward in our relationships, instead of remaining stuck in toxic patterns and behaviors.
Share Your Thoughts
Do you have experiences of times when giving less was the best choice for you? Or when you gave so much that you burst? Maybe you disagree with me, and have found that giving more works? Please comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts on giving in relationships!
Quotes and Header Image Credit: buddingoptimist.com