Once upon a time, there was a young girl who learned that she received love and positive attention when she took care of others.
She intuitively knew exactly what the people around her needed and sought to meet those needs in order to get more good feelings.
As she grew older, this skillset was so ingrained that she didn’t even realize she wasn’t tending to her own needs – she didn’t even think about having needs of her own. She’d always been the model daughter, everyone’s best friend, and now, she was a devoted wife and mother. Everybody loved her and many relied on her and she willingly, endlessly gave of herself.
But, if someone had asked her what she wanted or needed, she wouldn’t have been able to answer them.
Somewhere in the years of caring for others, our heroine had neglected her own needs so profoundly that she had literally forgotten that she had desires of her own. She was so caught up in the lives of others, so identified with the needs and wants of others, that she had quite disappeared from her own consciousness.
You see, that young girl had not only received love and positive attention for her nurturing superpowers, but she had simultaneously been admonished and even berated or punished for thinking about herself. Whenever she gave any time or attention to her own needs she was told she was being selfish and self-centered. Whenever she put herself first, or said “no,” the love that depended on her being a good, caring girl was rescinded.
The love and attention our heroine received as a child was conditional. Tainted. Based on her capacity to care for others.
Our heroine’s brain – as any brain would in such a situation – developed strong connections between giving and pleasure. Neural pathways associated with caretaking and nurturing grew stronger and, over time, the pathways and connections that would help her care for herself were pruned away. Our heroine had actually lost the capacity to care for herself.
Fortunately for our heroine, the brain is plastic and can be re-shaped, re-structured, re-calibrated. With dedication and practice, new neural connections can be made and new pathways forged.
In this midst of all this loving work and endless sacrifice, our heroine has become tired. She is depleted and feelings of resentment are building. Deep inside herself an inner knowing is bubbling up. Deep inside she is beginning to understand that she is just as valuable and important as those around her, she is recognizing that she has neglected her own well-being, her own growth and development in the forest of caretaking.
Our heroine is waking up.
Waking up to the truth that she has lost herself. The truth that she is surrounded by people who take from her. The truth that if she continues living this way, her inner flame will flicker and, eventually, die.
It’s in this awakening that she sees that she needs to start nurturing herself. She understands she needs to learn to say “no.” She recognizes that she needs to weed her friendship garden to make room for herself.
Our heroine is on the path to finding herself again. This awakening, these little awarenesses are the first steps towards creating the changes that will launch her towards reclaiming her life, towards finding the balance between giving and receiving, towards wholeness.
Do you see your own story in the tale of this heroine who gave and gave her whole life through? Are you are awakening to the truth that you have been neglecting yourself and your own needs? I invite you to start your own reclamation by reviewing your current self-care practices. Take the free Taking Care of You assessment today.