I sincerely consider myself one of those people who had a wonderful childhood. Most of the time I remember being very happy, and it took very little to get me to feel that way. The presence of a friend, a tree I could climb, a flower, a duck, the smell of fresh bread, the first snow were all wonderful and joyous occasions. However, like everyone else´s, my childhood had its challenges. Being born to two young, not yet established, adults (my mother being nineteen and my father twenty) was a double edged sword. On the one hand my parents had enough energy to be truly and actively involved in my life. On the other hand they were temperamental and not always ready to make a child a priority in their lives.
I learned from early on that in order to stay out of trouble I needed to think about their feelings and often to stay out of their way. I learned that it was bad to acknowledge my own needs if that contradicted the needs of my parents, and that the better survival mechanism was to be as nice as I possibly could be and to wait until someone asked me if I too needed something. This worked most of the time, as my parents, especially my father and my grandparents, really did love me very much.
However, as I became an adult, things in my life changed. The people who always looked out for me passed on, the people who never did were still there. It was time for me to speak up and to defend my own interests. Yet I had never learned how to do that. All I knew was how to be nice and to wait for someone to care enough to help me anyway or to be nice back. I was in for a big surprise.
The nicer I was, the more the people around me, including my own family, took advantage of me. The more generous I was, the more they took from me without thinking about giving back. The more I listened to them and comforted them, the less they cared to listen to me and the more outraged and disappointed they got when I did not have the time, health or energy to solve their problems. I felt constantly blackmailed by them. Either I did everything they told me to or they would put themselves in harm´s way and blame me.
After many years of allowing this to go on, something changed inside of me, some perspective was gained. I suddenly started to feel angry.
My love was no longer at the forefront of my emotions when I thought about these people. I felt upset, enraged, betrayed. I felt like I deserved love. Like I deserved my own love and approval. I knew that I needed to give myself permission to fail. That I deserved permission to screw up in the most despicable ways and to still be loved. That I could not go on being the only person in my family who would not be loved or accepted unless they met certain expectations. I understood that that love and acceptance had to come from within me.
I also knew that I was not emotionally ready for the endless confrontations that would ensue were I to constantly voice my true feelings. So I decided to take it one step at a time. First, remove myself as much as possible from the negative people in my life. Second, learn to hand back the problem to the people I still had to interact with.
Now when someone in my family tells me about their failures in life, I listen distractedly, I speak about what I would do if I were them and I leave it at that. I do not rush in to do their work, give them money, try to find them a new partner, mind their children or save them from the army.
Often my family members will insist on making their problem my problem by voicing unreasonable and almost always illogical ideas about how I could get involved and solve their problems for them. In this case they either get my sympathies and excuses or some distance.
The only way I will ever get to be a priority in my own life is if I decide that I am the priority, and it is a decision that I have recently made and would advise anyone else to make also.
Surround yourself with generous people. Give your hand to those in need, but do not put them on your shoulders and carry them through life. Be an empath, but set your boundaries. Do not expect approval from anyone, and you will be less wounded by their criticism. Learn to say no, and to hand back the problem to those who are dealing with it. Be willing to accept that no matter what you do, there will be failures in your life, and that this is not something to take too personally. Finally, be generous enough to allow others to learn from their own mistakes. I wish you lots of courage and many blessings,