We live in a world where everyone wants your time, your energy, your attention. Frequent requests of ‘help me with this’, ‘I need to see you’ or ‘give me some advice’ often litter your phone or pierce your ears. Everyone wants a piece of you, and often, these people will go to great lengths to make you feel guilty when you don’t show up.
What makes it worse is if you’re a naturally supportive individual. No matter the signs, being burnt countless times or your deep reservations, your natural inclination will be to help people. Be there for them. Provide support and care even if they don’t deserve it. But what happens when their need for you disappears? What happens when they find a new person they need, that’s not you? When your supportive characteristic is used against you?
If you’ve spent countless hours being there for them, without being there for yourself, you’ll feel used and abandoned; your trust in them (and sometimes people in general) broken. You’ll think things like ‘why am I always there for people, yet no one is there for me’ and ‘I always give people 100% but they only give me 80’. The sad truth is, no matter how supportive and caring you are, the wrong people will always find a way to use that care to their advantage and leave you feeling empty. The right people will appreciate and support you back.
That’s exactly what I’ve experienced in my life. As a supportive person, I’m always quick to offer people my time and energy; often above my own needs. I feel that if I can help someone, it’s my duty to do so. Not to receive it back, but just to help someone in need. It gives me comfort knowing someone came to me for help and I was able to assist him or her. I do it instinctively, sometimes without even thinking.
However, everyone isn’t like that. People are coded differently. There are a lot of individuals who will just use parts of you and disregard or ignore the rest. For whatever reason or justification, their need of you will burn like a star, then once they get what they need, they’ll suddenly leave like a thieve in the night (without ever seeing their actions as harmful or wrong). Sadly this is something I’ve experienced and struggled with. I’ve been there for people countless times, only to be left standing on my own when it was my time of need.
The trick I’m learning is to put you first. Give yourself the same attention, if not more, than you give to other people. If you are the priority in your decision-making, no one will be able to steal away your good nature. You’ll be able to help people but recognise when they are just using you. By protecting your heart and your mind, you’ll become more vigilant with people, and take greater care to whom you give your time, energy and attention too. It’ll stop you from becoming upset or bitter when people do a 360 and reveal their true colours, while you’ve been real with them from the start.
It’s important to remember that people change over time, for better and worse. Someone may need you now, but if their intentions aren’t true, sooner or later, they’ll toss you aside and you’ll be left to pick up the pieces. There’s no quick fix, and everything always makes sense in hindsight. Nevertheless, try to live your life with the people who continually show they care and have the best intentions for you.
When all else fails, moments of crisis will reveal it all. Breaking points, tragedies or times of discomfort will show who’s got your back and who doesn’t, despite saying that they do. When push comes to shove, the real will shine through while the fake will fade to black.
Here are some takeaways about prioritising yourself:
- Avoid one-sided relationships that seem good but in reality you give way more than them – always try to have equal relationships where both individuals contribute and provide.
- Pay close attention to the warning signs; if they only reach out to you when they’re in need or bored or lonely, run fast and don’t look back.
- Don’t be selfish and become like them when putting yourself first – remain kind and helpful whilst still protecting yourself.
- Don’t give up hope, the right people are out there and they will recognise, appreciate and love your support.
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P.S. No matter what you’re going through, remember #YouCanGetThroughThis.