04/02/2014 01:45 pm ET Updated Jun 02, 2014

7 Ways to Care Rather Than Care-Take

Are you a caretaker?

  • Do you ignore your own feelings and needs to take responsibility for someone else's feelings and needs -- someone who is capable of taking care of themselves? (This does not include young children, old people or sick people who cannot take care of themselves).
  • Do you try to control how others feel about you by being overly nice and overly giving? Do you give to get?
  • Do you tell yourself that taking loving care of yourself is selfish?
  • Do you feel guilty when you do what you want to do, with no intent to harm anyone, and someone close to you is angry with you about it?
  • Do you believe that your value is tied to being needed by others?
  • Do you allow yourself to be used emotionally, sexually, financially, or regarding your time?
  • Do you convince yourself that you are being loving when you are giving yourself up?
  • Are you a martyr? Do you end up feeling resentful because you are giving so much and not getting back what you want?

There is a huge difference between caring and care-taking.

1. No Strings Attached

You are caring when you give from love with no strings attached, no agenda to get anything back. You are caring when you give from love rather than trying to get love, attention or approval.

2. Check in With Yourself

Before giving, check in with yourself -- with your feelings -- to see if what you want to do for another is truly in your highest good and their highest good.

3. Honor Your Right to Bring Yourself Joy

Far from being selfish, taking loving care of yourself is self-responsible. It relieves others of the burden of taking care of your feelings and well-being. It fills you with love to share with others. When you give from an empty place to get filled by another, you are care-taking. When you learn to fill yourself with love, then when you give to another you are caring rather than care-taking.

4. Value Yourself Intrinsically

When you define your worth by your intrinsic qualities, such as your kindness, caring, empathy, compassion, ability to love, creativity, unique intelligence, and so on, then you do not need to prove your value by over-giving. When you define your own worth, you do not need to try to control getting another's approval to feel worthy.

5. Take Responsibility for Your Own Feelings

If you feel used or abused, focus on learning to take care of yourself rather than blaming another. Feeling used or abused indicates that you are caretaking rather than caring. When you take responsibility for your own feelings, you do not allow yourself to be used or abused, as this is not loving to yourself, or to anyone else.

6. Joy in Giving

You are caring rather than caretaking when you feel joy in the act of giving for the sake of being loving, rather than to get back accolades, attention, approval, love or acceptance. When you give from love, you receive joy in the giving and do not need anything back.

7. Saying No Without Guilt

When you love and value yourself, you can say no to caretaking without feeling guilty. When you value your intrinsic qualities and you know you are a good person, then others cannot guilt you into doing for them what they need to be doing for themselves.

Sometimes we need to care-give, but this is very different than care-taking. We lovingly care-give when we take care of infants and children, old and sick people -- who cannot take care of themselves. Sometimes we need to sacrifice in various ways -- giving extra time and attention, or getting up in the middle of the night. But when we are care-giving rather than care-taking, we do these things willingly because it is loving to ourselves and to the other to do so, and we do not feel the resentment that we often feel when we give ourselves up to care-take.

Giving from the heart for the joy of giving is a wonderful thing to do. Giving to get is manipulative and will never bring joy or create loving relationships.

Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" - the first two weeks are free! Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.

Connect with Margaret on Facebook: Inner Bonding, and Facebook: SelfQuest.