“You have to learn to stand up for yourself.”
“You have to take initiative.”
“You’re just too nice.”
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a genuine longing to do things for other people. I love buying gifts for people. I like giving out compliments. I will pay for the drink of the person behind me at the coffee shop. I jump at the chance to sit with my friends and give them advice.
But recently I discovered a trend in my life that made me question everything.
The other night, I found myself crying to a best friend on the phone at nearly 1 am. I was crying because I gave everything to someone that decided I wasn’t worth it. I trusted someone that used my heart against me.
And in the midst of that conversation, my friend said “you know, this is a theme in your life. Maybe you’re attracted to certain kinds of people because so many times you give everything to people who use you. ”
And she was right. I had noticed it before. Way too many times, especially in the last few years, someone I called a friend had leaned on me in order to make themselves feel better, only to then decide, one way or another, that I was too much too handle. That the love that I had to give was too much for them to take on.
And it left me feeling so stupid and broken. What was I doing loving these people? What was I doing being kind only so they could turn around and use me?
The solution I came up with? I decided not to care so much. I decided to make surface level connections and not put so much stake in my relationships. I pulled away from people I loved, out of the fear of scaring them away by caring too much.
This didn’t work. Not even close. I pulled away from people I cared about and kept my feelings to myself so that I wouldn’t get hurt. But as I did this, I just became more and more broken. I found that I was further and further away from my authentic self.
And then one day, when I was at my lowest, someone said five words to me: “you were made for more.” This changed my whole perspective and I had a realization.
I am not the problem.
I had spent such a long time trying to change myself, trying to be someone I was not, someone with a smaller heart, in order to fit the world’s image. But that’s not who I am, and so it was never going to work. I was never going to be happy being dishonest with my heart.
So if you are like me, and you feel things deeply and you love too hard, let me be the first to tell you:
You are not the problem.
The problem is that the world we live in is one where “nice” has become something of which you can be too much. Everyone tells us that we have to change ourselves, have to lose our compassion if we ever want to get where we want to go in life.
We are living in a world where I have become the one responsible for other people’s treatment of me. We are living in a world that teaches us that to be kind and vulnerable is to ask for abuse. We are living in a world in which I am the one pinned with feelings of shame and regret when someone takes advantage of me. We are living in a world in which caring has become something to be ashamed of.
It is the world that needs to change, not me.
I am imperfect, and there are certainly ways in which I can better myself, but, regardless of what the world tells me, hiding my feelings in order to keep from scaring those who cannot appreciate and respect me for them, is not the way to do that.
And so I have made a decision. I have decided that I would rather be the one who cares more than the one who doesn’t care at all. I would rather feel the pain of a broken heart than regret not loving.
I have decided to love bravely and care passionately, to “love like there’s no such thing as a broken heart.”
And I pray that, one day, selfless love will once again be an act of true character instead of the characterization of a desperate person trying to win affection. I pray that we will all strive to lift up the ones with the bravery to be compassionate, instead of using them up and tearing them down.
Some people might think this prayer is naive. Me? I just think it’s necessary.
“They were needy, afflicted, tormented…Of them, the world was not worthy.” -Hebrews 11:37-38