You’ve heard the expression, you can’t pour from an empty cup?
Do you do this, or is it just me?
When I hear that someone needs help, or they are in trouble, or they have some sort of issue – I immediately feel like it is my job to sort it out. Especially (but not only) if it is a member of my family, friends or work colleagues.
It’s a thing, right? A thing most women do.
Men do this too, but in a completely different way. (As always – this IS a generalisation and does not apply to all men or all women. These are just my observations). On hearing you mention something that didn’t go well or isn’t going well – they feel like they should come up with a solution to every situation, where you might have just wanted a bit of sympathy.
Example – me to Mr C. “X person gave me some negative feedback, and after I went out of my way to help”. Mr C, “Well you want to tell them to sling their hook/don’t get involved next time/walk away”. All very helpful advice – but actually I just wanted him to say “Well, they are an idiot, and you are fantastic and don’t deserve that”.
Women are better at doing that. At offering sympathy or empathy, being more feelings focused – generally.
Women Feel Responsible.
Men feel a responsibility to come up with a solution (and then they can walk away from it, having “solved it”). The solution may or may not involve THEM. Women actually feel responsible for the outcome of the situation and the feelings of the person about the outcome.
I recently had a family situation come up. Immediately my mind went to a solution where I was the solution. I took responsibility for everything and that would take the problem away from the other person and make them feel better (at least in my head), and the problem then became mine. But that was OK because then the other people would feel better.
And then I realised – I hadn’t even been asked to help!
What is this need we have to save everyone else from pain – often at our own detriment?
A Friend In Need
I guess you are, like me, willing to drop everything at a moments notice to help a friend or loved one in need. And that is a great quality – and the reason why you are a friend to that person. They would (probably) do the same back.
But is that always the right thing to do?
There is a reason that on a plane they ask you to put your own oxygen mask on first in the case of an emergency. And – not to be too dramatic about it, as my friend Marion always says – it’s not so you can help your children as much as it is to prevent your children from seeing you fall unconscious and die.
There is only so much of you to go around, and there is only so many time you can pour from a cup before it is empty. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
Fill Up Your Cup
Of course, in an emergency, you will step up. You just need to make sure your cup has something in it before you pour from it. Which might mean NOT saying yes to every request, or worse, not offering help when it hasn’t even been asked for. It definitely means checking in with yourself before making a decision.
If you need rest, don’t say yes to going on a hike. If you need mental space, don’t say yes to dinner with an emotionally draining relative. If you need sleep, don’t say yes to staying up late with your spouse.
It is OK to put yourself first. It isn’t being selfish. Wanting to live fully, with enough energy and health and vitality is not selfish. If you can’t look after yourself – how can you look after anyone else?
So How Do You Fill Your Cup?
It comes down to these 2 factors. They are simple but not easy.
First – put your own needs first. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about others, in fact, it’s the reverse. It means that you DO. You care about the people in your life so much, that you want to be there for them as much as you can and for as long as you can. And that can only happen when you look after yourself.
Secondly, recognise that you cannot ever be all things to all people. Be honest, have there been times where you have struggled to help someone? I am thinking of a friend of mine who spent years trying to help her alcoholic friend. She didn’t. At least, she didn’t UNTIL she walked away. You see, she was NOT the right person to help. And anyway, you can’t help someone until they ask for help, until they are prepared to make a change. And even then – you might not be the right person.
How Do You Know If You Should Help?
First you have to know yourself. You need to know what you are here for, what your purpose is and what lights you up. I wouldn’t be the right person to offer help on breast feeding, as I’ve never done it, or wine tasting – because I don’t drink.
You can’t help everyone with everything. This is a mistake I see businesses making all the time. They try to be all things to all people, and it never works. They end up stretched too thin and not really helping anyone.
And that’s the same for me.
I recently realised that I was spending the majority of my time helping someone else build their business, I was prioritising their needs above my own. And I had been happy to do it for a long time, but my cup was getting emptier and emptier.
My purpose is to help women age 40+ who are struggling with some sort of life change, to find or re-find their purpose. To help them stop asking “Why Me?” and start saying “Why NOT me?”. To help them Find Their WHY, Live Their WHY and Share Their WHY.
And I hadn’t been doing that.
And so, in the spirit of filling my own cup so I have plenty to give to the women I am here to serve, I put my own needs first, and closed the door on a chapter of my life which I will be forever grateful for.
Now, here’s the thing about closed doors. We don’t need to be scared about closing them, because a good knock will always open them again. But 99 times out of 100, what we find instead are many other exciting doors, just waiting to be opened.
So, I would encourage you to fill up your own cup this weekend. Say “No, thank you” to anything you don’t really want to do, to anything that takes you away from instead of towards your purpose and say “Yes” to you.