THE BLOG

Recognizing When Your Giving Well Is Dry

02/12/2015 06:38 pm ET | Updated Apr 14, 2015

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"Nicole, are you free?"

"Actually I am in the middle of something, are you okay?"

"No. Can I call you?"

ANOTHER text? This is the fourth crisis that day. I want to throw my phone through the wall, or at minimum shut it off completely. But I can't. This person needs me. I am a lifeline. What will happen to them if I don't answer? It doesn't matter that I haven't eaten in hours, that I just got home from work, and that my head is pounding -- they need me. I take a deep breath. It feels like a truck is on my chest.

"Yes I am free. I am here. What do you need?" Silently, I cry. What about what I need?

I am not tooting my own horn when I say I am a giver by nature. I love being needed, I truly feel a calling to help. It is part of my career in holistic health, it has been my role in relationships and it has been a part of my identity. This may seem like a redeeming quality, but without proper boundaries it can be a curse.

Your value is tallied through what you give, yet you resent others for depleting you. You answer calls that you wish you could silence. You make plans when you prefer to sleep. You give advice until your voice is hoarse and you text until your eyes bleed. Internally you scream for time to breathe but you choose to pour your being into someone else in need, and in turn you empty your reserves, drop by drop. Basically you forget how to take care of yourself.

Recently I had to relearn this lesson again the hard way. Someone dear to me was in crisis mode and I gave until I couldn't get out of bed. I forfeited my yoga routine because the other person came first. I stopped seeing my friends because I had no energy to talk. I prayed for my phone to break. I begged for another person to take over. I cried and I pitied myself. I took a look in the mirror and I asked myself how helpful could I be in this state? Who really needs someone who is an emotional desert? Then I surrendered.

I had to learn to refuel before I could fill someone else up.

I knew I needed to ground myself. Running a business requires focus and stamina, and I had neither. I also need to replenish my own reserves so that I could give to my clients, but most of all give back to me. I feel the most rejuvenated when I regularly practice yoga, when I have a day where I don't have to punch a clock, and when I disconnect from electronics. So, I ordered myself to shut my phone off at 8 p.m. I took sea salt baths. I started incorporating yoga again -- even in shorter routines. I practiced a gentle version of the word, "no." But I still felt some resistance. What was it?

I asked myself if I knew how to receive and I heard, "No." I had discovered my block. This is why I kept regurgitating this pattern of giving and resenting rather than giving and receiving. I didn't feel worthy of receiving. When I thought about taking from someone else without giving, I panicked. How could I be of value if I wasn't giving and receiving? But then I remembered how I felt when I knew I was needed, and I knew that others could benefit from this feeling as well. What a gift!

We are all worthy without having to earn it. We are all capable of balance, self-preservation and boundaries. Each of us has the right to breathing space, to free use of the word "no," and to define our own peace of mind. The question is, when will you value yourself enough to become number one?