Dear gossip girl,
From reading your submission, it sounds to me like you might be an empath. You are attuned to and absorbent of others’ emotions. This can be immensely rewarding – it can make you a better listener, and a more nurturing friend – however, understandably, it can also be a rather draining attribute to have. Sometimes it becomes hard to separate our own emotions from others’. And often it is difficult to stop ourselves from caring deeply about others’ feelings (especially those of our loved ones) even at the expense of our own ones.
I would say that the secret to separate our own needs from those of others is to set emotional boundaries: sometimes, when my brain is congested with multiple thoughts and feelings that I cannot easily categorise into what comes directly from myself and what comes from others, I sit down with my journal and scribble out these thoughts. This helps me to understand myself better, to put things into perspective, and to delineate between my genuine emotions, and the ones I may have simply absorbed from those around me. Of course, doing this will not render you completely indifferent to others’ feelings; instead, it will (hopefully) allow you to create some emotional boundaries, which will benefit both you and them in the long term.
You cannot pour from an empty cup, and if you want to fully embrace the nurturing aspect of who you are, you must nurture yourself first. Maybe come up with a list of things to do that will help you to recharge when you find that your emotional capacities are depleted: this might include a day spent sat outside with some books, or a weekly bike ride, or even cleaning your room (I find this last one to be very therapeutic).
Ultimately, in terms of self-worth and self-acceptance, it all comes down to knowing thyself: if you know who you are, it is easier to accept yourself, and to care for yourself, and, by extension, to have healthy relationships with others. By this, I do not mean attempting to completely define yourself or put yourself into descriptive boxes. I mean, you must come to know your own strengths and weaknesses, what you like, what you don’t like, and the signs that indicate when others’ emotional pressures are becoming a bit too much for you (this is when you need to refer to those emotional boundaries, and back off a little). And then, you must embrace all this self-knowledge, and grow into yourself.
The way that it sounds like you are willing to love others: you really need to save some of that love for yourself. Cringe-worthy as it may sound, loving yourself (without developing an egotistical obsession!) is the most worthwhile thing to do. You must give yourself the same nurturing energy that you offer to other flawed, albeit still deeply lovable, people. Remember that we only criticise ourselves so much because we have the most direct access to our own insecurities and inadequacies.
And, adding on to the topic of emotional boundaries, you really need to ask yourself: the amount of care and attention you offer others – is that same level of support offered back to you? And do you seek it when you need it?
It is worth bearing in mind that most of us are driven by a desire to prove ourselves, and to escape the feeling of not being ‘good enough’. But once again, we are all flawed, and we each possess our own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Given that our time on this earth is rather short in the grand scheme of things, you may find it worthwhile to embrace and make the most of the brain, the beauty, and the personality you are fortunate enough to possess now. Perhaps none of us will ever fully meet our idealistic expectations of what being ‘good enough’ entails. But it is never not worth it to wear this all on your sleeve, to love irrespective of flaws and to be loved in the same way in return, and to exude your unique and powerful energy with pride.
Ask me a question (or tell me what’s on your mind) here
Sadia Ahmed, 2019