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Listening to Your Story: A Comment on Feeling

Staff writer May Zaben discusses people-pleasing, self-worth and setting boundaries. She offers advice to her peers – value your own story.

When I fall for a story, I fall hard.

Listening to people share their information with me instills an unburdened, at-ease feeling in my heart – and I am alive. So I listen with strength. But when this listening reaches its limit, I feel a plain sense of tiredness and I just want to go home and sleep. This is how I feel without setting proper boundaries. This is a person who feels too much, who brings about good energy and lets people take and take without stopping.

The thing is, I don’t mind the taking – but it wouldn’t hurt to receive what I give, just a little. To me, there is nothing more fruitful than that; not the essence of expecting to receive something when you give it, but just a little support for the smile you give, or the shoulder you lend for someone to cry on, or even a little compliment. “You’re pretty. You’re wise. You’re indescribably brilliant.”

But we don’t have to wait for a person to tell us this. Think about yourself: the person who can say the words, “You’re pretty. You’re wise. You’re indescribably brilliant.” You look at them in the mirror every day. You spend the most time with them without meaning to. The person who you should trust the most and be kind with, someone to take at heart.

To the people-pleaser reading this, to the person who feels as though they give and give but never do so in a healthy manner: be kind to yourself. Ask yourself why you’re doing this or who you’re doing it for. Committing yourself to something beyond the scope of your capacity is not a blessing, but a detriment to your soul.

Few will ask you how your day was willingly, and few will help you set those boundaries you so desperately want to set. Only you can do that, because if you’re the type of soul who never fails to make someone laugh, no matter how bad a day you’ve had, then you deserve a little of that brightness too. “Give yourself credit,” my mom always tells me. God bless her for reminding me, because I forget that myself sometimes.

So, yes. Actually give yourself credit. You’re doing more beautifully than you think. To the 13 year old girl in me, you shine so bright, and you are more than allowed to say, “I need a day. I’ll come back and listen to you tomorrow.” We all need that.

In my many years of listening to people, trying my best to heal them with good humor and kind words, I recognised the type of energy I had all along is the reason people kept coming back to me, telling me anything and everything. I may have minded a little then, because I never felt at ease. But now, writing this, I feel at peace. Because I know where I stand with myself, and I know how to give without falling off the pedestal. I urge you to learn that too.

If there’s something in your heart asking you to battle that uncomfortable, unwanted burden of “I give but I never receive”, do it. Once you do that, you will feel the force of freedom, and you will be okay.

And when you do that, you will thank yourself forever.

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