Are you someone who would give all your water away to take care of someone else?

What takes place when you give all your water away?
What do you do when you’re in need of water to keep yourself hydrated and you don’t have any water left because you gave it all away?

Since you don’t have any left for yourself you go without and so do those to whom you’ve been giving all your water. No one has any water now, do they?

You become dehydrated and have no energy to fill up the water bottle so everyone goes without.
And you might even end up resenting those to whom you gave all your water because you ran out of water and have none left for you.

In other words, when we give all our water away without hydrating ourselves first, we put our own lives in jeopardy. As a result we’re unable to help anyone else and we resent them to boot.

With that in mind, why would you give all your water away?
Well let’s take a look at what led to this behavior.
Most of us have grown up in a culture that teaches us to put everyone else’s needs in front of our own.

In fact, we get lots of praise and compliments for making such great sacrifices for others and for being so selfless.
For many of us, this approval from others is the motivation that feeds our selfless choice to put others first. Approval from others is high on our list of necessities that make us feel better about ourselves. We not only want others to have a good opinion of us, we need others to like us in order to feel good about who we are.

Have you ever noticed that when you need approval from others you’ll even put the needs of people you don’t like before your own and then resent them more than ever because you did it?

How many times have you loaned money to someone you really didn’t want to loan money and perhaps you didn’t even like them either? You gave them the money you were pretty sure you might not get back. You gave them the money you actually needed to pay your own bills because you just couldn’t say no.

And how angry were you that they had the nerve to even ask you for it? You’re mad at them because they asked and you didn’t say no. Your anger is misdirected. You are actually angry with yourself for saying yes and you’re directing your anger with yourself toward them.

Yes, you might not like them, but that isn’t the real reason why you’re angry with them. You’re angry with you for saying yes when you really wanted to say no.
How often do you pretend to like someone to their face, even helping them when helping them is hurting you and then get angry and even gossip about them behind their backs afterwards?

Here’s the reality of the situation. They have a right to ask for all of your water and you have a right to say no. But as you and I both know, it’s almost impossible to say no when you have such a great need for approval from others. You might even worry about what others will think of you if this person tells them that you refused to help when they needed it. You surely don’t want to risk that, do you?

Some of us won’t say no to others even when it hurts us because we’ve been convinced by society that we would be thought of as selfish if we were to put ourselves first. For those of us who worry about what others think of us, we’ll put others’ wants and needs before our own even when it hurts us to do it so that others will see us as an unselfish person.

We even have a great label for people who willingly give all their water away. We label them as people pleasers.
People pleasers will do whatever it takes to please others so that others are pleased with them…even give all their water away with none left for themselves.
Like me, you may have been taught that you’re a better person when you take care of everyone else before yourself. And like me, you may have noticed that by the time you took care of everyone else before you there wasn’t much left over for yourself. And like me you may have experienced some kind of resentment toward those you took care of first, even when they are someone you dearly love. What’s up with that?

Can you begin to see how the need for approval from others is one big trap? You’re angry if you give all your water away and at the same time you’re worried about what people will think if you don’t give all your water away. That’s a catch 22 if I’ve ever seen one. There seems to be no win-win in that situation.

So let’s look at a solution that is a win-win for everyone. And I’m going to give you a head’s up – it isn’t what most of us were taught.

The win-win solution for everyone is that you take care of yourself first before others! How scary is that? How selfish does that sound? I get it.

So let me ask you this. Have you ever flown on a commercial airplane? If so, what is the message you’re given prior to take off? The flight attendant instructs you to put on your own oxygen mask first. The flight attendant knows that if you can’t breathe you can’t be of help to anyone else. How can you possibly help someone else breathe when you aren’t able to breathe yourself?

You have been given permission to take care of yourself first because if you don’t you won’t be able to take care of anyone else… at least not for long. People pleasing isn’t going to work in this situation, is it?

The same is true with giving all your water away or anything else you give to others first when you need it for your own well-being and even for your own survival.
Jacquelyn Small, author of Transformers, talks about the importance of taking care of ourselves first when she writes,

“Selfishness is a stepping stone to Self-ness. We cannot give to someone else something we do not ourselves possess. So we must develop a Self in order to give this Self to others.”

She emphasizes the idea that selfishness is healthy. To practice healthy selfishness you have to go against the teachings you grew up with and learn that is it okay, and even healthy, to put yourself first and others second.
While I say Me First, You Second, Velva Lee Heraty, MSW, and Certified Jungian Depth-Psychotherapist, says “You first, after me.”

It doesn’t matter which phrase you choose. What does matter is that you give yourself permission to start practicing healthy selfishness.

The outcome will be that you have more water to give away because you have taken care of you first. In fact, taking care of you first is what keeps your water bottle full of water.

“Taking care of you first keeps your water bottle full of water.”

When you take care of yourself first, you actually give your own psyche the message that you are just as important as everyone else. When you nurture yourself first before others, your anger dissipates. Almost like magic you have no need to resent others when you take care of them after you. You give yourself the message that you have just as much value as they have. And does it ever feel good, once you get past the discomfort of going against your prior people pleasing behavior, to stop hurting yourself to help others, even when it’s those you care very deeply about.

If this sounds too good to be true, give yourself a gift that allows you to give more to others…practice it for yourself. Find out for yourself that it works. The more times you repetitively practice nurturing yourself first, the quicker your thinking about you will change----and the sooner it will be comfortable for you to put you first and others second. And the sooner you will have more water to give away!

Author's Bio: 

Patricia Noll is the Founder and Executive Director of Focus One, Inc., an Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment Program, which has been licensed by the State of Florida since September, 1989. For over 25 years as a lecturer and group facilitator, Patricia has conducted over 5000 group lectures on how to feel good and overcome addictive behaviors.

She has a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling and a degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Along with the Good With Me Book and related community, she is the author of the Focus One Treatment Manual and Workbook which has been endorsed by internationally renowned authors and lecturers Deepak Chopra, Larry Dossey, Jack Kornfield, and Jacquelyn Small among others.