Updated: Feb 3
Finding balance in different areas such as in relationships, at work etc. can be challenging especially if you have been living at one extreme for most of your life. In a lot of cases when you try to change you will find yourself at the other extreme.
Say you are the kind of person who is very caring towards others, you tend to go out of your way a lot to help people, you normally always say “yes” to others even if deep down you may not want to, you always put other people’s needs ahead of yours but over time you start to realise that you are feeling worn out. Am I describing you or someone you know?
You’re constantly tired
Maybe you feel stressed or you're getting ill. You feel like you’re taking on too much and it’s overwhelming. Because you are low on energy you may not be able to keep going out of your way for others as much as you used too, you start to feel low and lonely.
You may find yourself withdrawing from people
Stuck at home and having time to think you start to realise that the people you normally always say "yes" to and go out of your way for aren’t really doing the same for you now. They’re not really checking to see how you are, texting, calling or visiting you.
You tell yourself not to expect others to do the same as you would normally do and you don’t like asking others for help anyway but you start to feel disappointed and sad.
Over time you may feel resentment towards others and start withdrawing from people. You see that once you have stopped making your usual level of effort particular people don’t make much effort either.
This distance gives you space and time to reflect on certain relationships, you start to see more clearly and notice how much effort you are putting in versus other people.
Going to the extreme
Now this is where you could easily go from one extreme to the other, from being the person who always says “yes” to being the person who always says “no”. You continue withdrawing and isolating yourself, you feel lonely and depressed. You may feel angry and feel that you can't trust other people.
Once you end up in this place you may find that you are becoming more and more negative so it's important to be aware of that and to try to find a place in-between.
Finding a place that works for you
No one is saying don’t go out of your way for others, there will be times when you should put your needs to the side for others around you but when it comes to the detriment of you, your health, your self-care, your mental health etc. that is when saying “no” is okay and the healthy thing to do.
"Always remember to take care of yourself, first and foremost, because when you stop taking care of yourself, you get out of balance and you really forget how to take care of others" - Jada Pinkett Smith
It doesn’t even have to be a blunt “no”, it could be putting boundaries in place such as “I can help you but I am only available on this day at this time”. This way you are protecting your space, time and energy but you are still able to be there for others.
There may be times when you can’t be there for someone though, it could be that you have another commitment, you are working, you are ill or you're just not feeling up to it.
I get that in these situations if you had to say a outright “no” you may feel guilty or wonder what the other person will think, will they still like you, will they believe you, will it affect your relationship etc.
It’s helpful to think of how you would react if it was the other way round – would you be understanding? would you question the person’s motives? or would you stop liking that person and end the relationship? Of course, it depends on the relationship you have with that person and the history but hopefully you would be understanding and not hold it against them.
Sometimes we can get stuck in our own heads and only see things from our own perspective. Similar to above where you put yourself in someone else's shoes it's also useful to think about what other people maybe going through too.
There will be times when you go back to your usual patterns and ways and that's okay and all part of the process of change. Be kind to yourself when that happens and keep trying. Counselling can help to spot when you maybe falling to either extreme and finding the middle ground which works for you.
Within the therapy space, different perspectives can also be looked at and ways of balancing your needs with the needs of other people.