As kids, we are taught to put others first before ourselves. But some of us, take that to the extreme and as we grow older, we find ourselves in more and more situations where we are taken advantage of. When is the line between selfishness and selflessness crossed and when does it become unhealthy or even dangerous?
Growing up, my dad always showed me that sacrificing my own needs and happiness for others was the way to live. He didn’t explicitly ever say this, but his selflessness in times of financial hardship, divorce, and sickness is engrained in my subconscious. His reasoning was that our family was so comfortable, confident, and happy with our own lives because we had eachother, that if someone else needs to take advantage of us to make themselves feel a little happier, that’s okay.
But I’ve noticed in my 20’s, that you have to guard your heart, your soul, and your intentions with a 200-lb pitbull. It shouldn’t have to be this way, but the truth is – it’s darn dangerous to be too giving. Before you know it, you’re a doormat. When in reality, you should be the doorbell. Not a piece of carpet that people wipe their feet on and move forward, but a doorbell that can be rung and answered only if you choose to.
As a 26 year old who grew up often feeling like a doormat, what I find to be super difficult is setting healthy boundaries with friends and family… When I’ve never set any before. When I have stuck up for myself, I see that others are startled, confused, and even a little offended. Does anyone else encounter these reactions?
I had a tight group of friends who I think the world of. I was constantly paying for them, sending them custom holiday and birthday cards, taking care of them when they were sick, and going above and beyond what anyone would think is appropriate for someone who is not.. well, their mother. However, when it comes to my birthday, it’s not uncommon that I received an “I forgot message – I’m so sorry” weeks after the date had passed or when I needed a cup of soup on my sick day, I was ghosted. These friends of mine are NOT bad people, in fact, I still think the world of them, but they are no longer in my world.
Do you find yourself always giving in to others demands even when it is inconvenient or possibly damaging to your life? It’s so important to speak up, but don’t be surprised if old friends are taken aback and even come off as offended to your newfound voice. Just remember, good people won’t make you feel guilty for saying no, in fact, they should celebrate this. Don’t ever feel like someone is with you because you do things for them. I certainly have felt that way. It’s important to explain to people you love how you are feeling and how things are going to change. Real friends will respect you and possibly love you even more. I have found my bad-a** group of friends to surround myself with, who watch out for my kindness and the moment it starts to be taken advantage of, they are on it. It’s so wonderful.
I want this post to empower you and others to find your voice. It doesn’t mean you stop being your bubbly, kind self. Pay for a friend occasionally, keep sending those handwritten holidays cards, and drop off soup when someone clearly needs some. It’s when you start feeling under-appreciated that you need to step back and put yourself first.
Life is truly about paying it forward and I really do think highly of my father. He seems to get burned a lot, but it never really stings him because of his strength and confidence. I know I will continue to put others first before myself, but only when I can. Being selfless is a gift and not many people are born with the ability to instinctively prioritize others over themselves.
If you know someone who you feel is being used as a welcome mat – send them a text and thank them for all that they’ve done for you. Remind them that their voice and heart is respected, heard. Celebrate them and all that they are. Remind them that their kindness is well spent, appreciated, reciprocated, and damn beautiful.
Find that group of people who love and respect your No’s – they are the ones who will treat you like a doorbell, not a doormat.