When we find ourselves in a complex situation that involves people whom we care about we can easily lose sight of our wants and needs.
Though it can be argued that selfishness is a common trait triggered by self-preservation, some of us have another dominant primal instinct: to nurture and protect. This gender inclusive proclivity can be difficult to navigate.
If you identify as a protector or nurturer, then chances are that you have found yourself in a circumstance where you get wrapped up in emotionally providing for another person while oftentimes, without even realizing it, forgetting your needs. Worse than forgetting your needs, there are times when we become so concerned in trying to ensure another person’s comfort, or in providing what we think that they need from us, that we do not even take the time to reflect on what we need and how we feel. We don’t check in with ourselves and only realize this when the situation has become overwhelming for us.
How do we practice kindness and compassion towards another person without neglecting our own self-care and endangering our authenticity?
This is the million-dollar question for those of us who fall into the protector/nurturer role. We have a desire to provide for another person because we love him or her, but the reality is that we cannot provide for someone when we are failing to provide for ourselves.
A couple of days ago I was sharing with a friend and confided in him that a recent interaction had left me feeling unsettled and concerned for another person. I’d spent some time thinking about how to best provide and interact with this person. After hearing my thoughts, my friend asked me: How about you? How are you doing, what do you need, and how are you taking care of yourself? These were questions that I could not answer in the moment because I had not asked them of myself.
And, that’s when it hit me….we don’t do anyone any favors when we address an already fragile relationship by attempting to take our needs out of the equation. When we proceed in this manner we fail to be authentic.
When we filter our actions and words in order to create what we perceive to be an easier interaction for another person, we prevent any opportunity for that individual to show up with us.
We indirectly confirm that the person cannot handle our needs, that he or she needs to be protected because there is a lack of ability to deal with genuine interaction. In other words, we do not trust the other person’s own capability to take care of themselves. We rob someone of an experience that can lead to new discoveries and self-growth.
But, just as importantly, we sell ourselves short. When we neglect to listen to and honor our feelings and needs, we send a message both to ourselves and to others that what we need is not as important and does not need to be valued. When we are not authentic we stunt our own self-development and stress ourselves in trying to maintain a situation that is based on sheltered conversation rather than honesty.
In our attempt to mold our interactions to what we feel would be most pleasant and less hurtful for the other person, we unintentionally create more strain on the relationship. We may leave interactions with the other person feeling confused and exhausted because being inauthentic takes much effort.
When we do not behave authentically, we will eventually begin to question how long we can last in our protector/nurturing role because the effort of stepping into this role when it is at the expense of our own self-care quickly weighs us down. We run the danger of burning out and end up putting the relationship at greater risk.
Taking into consideration how we feel and what we need is not an indicator of wanting to take less care of another person, rather it is appreciating that in order for any type of relationship to work we need to be fully present and be our authentic selves.
We need to know that compassion and authenticity can go hand in hand and that we do not need to compromise our needs.
In any meaningful relationship that we participate in, we have a responsibility to show up authentically, because when we don’t, we lose the integrity and viability of the relationship.When we begin to refrain from actions and words that feel authentic to us, when we push aside a part of our life or personality for someone else, that is when we stop being able to relate. We inadvertently place a barrier between ourselves and the other person. They stop having a relationship with us and more so with a watered down copy.
We can only protect and nurture in a healthy manner when we are doing the same for ourselves. Being authentic is a form of self-care that we owe to ourselves if we want to sustain internal peace.