Do you Allow Others to Drown You, or Do You Swim to Shore?
Here is a truth: Givers attract takers. It is an energy thing.
Say you are on a boat that is sinking. You can see the shoreline, and you are sure that you can swim there. Hope is not lost, but you are on the boat with a taker (either someone who is selfish or just incredibly needy). You know that the taker isn’t likely to do the healthy thing — which is to swim to shore.
Here are your options:
a) You can tell your fellow passenger that you both need to swim to shore, encourage him to swim hard, give him a life preserver, and wish him luck. You can start swimming and save yourself.
b) You can stay back with the fellow passenger (telling yourself that you can save him). You can try to keep him afloat as he pushes you down while boosting himself up. This results in chaos and flailing. In this scenario, you both drown.
In the second scenario, two lives are lost instead of one. No good comes from allowing yourself to drown alongside a person who needs to push you down to stay afloat or who tries to push you down to get moving or who is going to pull you down in the panic of emotion. Your job is to save yourself and allow the other person to save himself because you are not equipped to save anyone else. <Note: I am not taking about small children here. Indeed, we would likely self-sacrifice to save our small children.>
While it may be sad that you can’t save the other person, all you can do is point the way and go about surviving. The dilemma is that givers believe they are responsible for others to the point of self-sacrifice, and it only results in more damage.
The boat scenario is really about everyday life situations that we all face.
Am I suggesting that we turn a blind eye to people in need? Hell no. I am saying that we need to be honest with ourselves about give and take in relationships. We need to be honest about how much of our own energy we are giving away to people who are drowning us along the way and ask ourselves — why.
Givers are so used to giving that they probably don’t even know they are doing it anymore. They are so programmed to give time and energy away to others out of polite respect or fear of hurting another person’s feelings that it is automatic. It may not feel like a choice anymore.
Upon request or demand, givers give. Each time a giver gives, it necessarily means that energy is diminished — mental/emotional energy, physical energy, time, money, etc. Giving becomes self-sacrificial.
Givers are programmed to give — either genetically or because of early life experiences. It is who they are. More importantly, however, givers have this internal story that involves another person really needing them. They feel compelled to give to avoid guilt and anguish about what might happen if they don’t give. They worry extensively about other people’s feelings. They see other people as victims and feel compelled to help.
A healthy relationship involves giving and taking. You give some when the other person needs it, and the other person gives you some when you need it, which you willingly take.
I am not saying that takers consciously use other people, although some definitely do. Many takers are just selfish, self-absorbed, and/or overly needy to the point that they never see past their own desires.
Remember, givers attract takers, and in these relationships, the giver is drowning without ever questioning why.
We have to stop telling ourselves that self-care is selfish. Boundaries are not cruel and callous. They are about valuing our own mental, emotional, and physical health as much as we value others’. They are about ensuring that we have enough energy to save ourselves and knowing that it is worthwhile and necessary.
In the end, what can be gained from trying to save another person (who isn’t trying to save herself) if we are self-destructing in the process?
All we can control is ourselves, and we’ve got to stop shaming ourselves into responsibility for other people’s emotions, choices, and survival. Keep your eye on the shoreline, and keep swimming. Never feel guilty for valuing your own life. You are just as worthy. Start acting like it.
I write a lot about boundaries and self-care. Check out my book Move on Motherf*cker: Live, Laugh, and Let Sh*t Go on Bookshop.org, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, NewHarbinger.org, and your local bookstore.