By Nina Lei
We often show people that we care for them by taking care of them. Whether it’s a partner, family member, or friend, helping them with whatever they need shows them that we love them and they are important to us. But can this go too far?
Yes, when you aren’t taking care of your own needs. This isn’t to say that you should never put others first. For people you love deeply, you might always put them first (e.g., a parent, child, spouse). However, if your life starts to be negatively affected because it revolves around taking care of others and you don’t take care of yourself, your caring becomes a problem.
Maybe you’re thinking that those you love are more important to you than anyone else, including yourself. That as long as these peoples’ needs and desires are met, you’ll be fine, no matter the cost to you. And that there’s no problem, as long as you’re not harming yourself.
But when you focus most of your attention on taking care of others, is that not a problem? If you don’t spend enough time taking care of your own needs, you ARE harming yourself. And when you are not in a healthy state, your good intentions to help others are thwarted by your impaired ability to actually provide useful help.
For example, you may try to help your partner with most/everything that he/she needs or wants. Over time, the things that you need or want get pushed aside, which can cause anxiety and other unhealthy feelings. Your anxiety and/or other feelings may, and likely will, grow over time. When you are in this state of mind, your ability to provide help to others is hampered. Think about it – how can you help others when you aren’t able to help yourself?
Remember that sometimes, you need to put yourself first. This doesn’t mean that you should be selfish. It just means that you need to be cognizant if/when your own needs and desires are being ignored when you are trying to take care of others. Sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in what we are doing and not even realize that our health is being negatively affected by our actions. If you need help, contact me or one of my fellow therapists at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to help you on your path to a healthier, less co-dependent life.