Written by Lorenzo Colombo - Co-founder of Soulful Soundwaves
“You can only help others if you help yourself first.” I've heard this phrase so many times that when it comes up in a conversation it sounds like a refrain on an old record. Repetition doesn’t make it less true, but often when we hear it we’d like to ask that person “I know, I get it, but what does it mean practically? Can you tell me what I can do to help myself?”
When we give to others we can do it unconditionally until a certain point. We can call it the giving threshold. Passed that point we start thinking how our contribution gets received, appreciated, rewarded. It’s not uncommon in fact to give more than expected and later find ourselves thinking “…well, if I knew in advance it was going this way…” or “…he could have shown at least a bit of gratitude.” It happens because we crossed our threshold without being aware of it.
Knowing where our personal threshold lies is as important as the act of giving itself.
Many people are givers to the point they cannot even find time for themselves as, in their eyes, others always come first. These incredible human beings do everything to help, to the point they are almost trying to prevent somebody’s needs. But as generous as it might seem, this mechanism could ultimately push those in need away.
Many of us, even when we really need a hand, consider this behaviour overwhelming, and many of us at this stage start keeping the distance from the helper. Why does this mechanism take place?
The reason lies in the way we treat ourselves.
Support is much more effective when it's given or taken below our threshold. When we receive it past that point, we don't really need it but it makes us feel good. When we provide it, as soon as we cross the threshold we start questioning the way it is received. It's much healthier for both giver and receiver to understand where the limit lies and become reliable for their actions. Giving as well as receiving in this way not only produces more effective results, but also helps build a deeper relationship with the other party. A relationship based on respect and trust. To stop helping someone, we need to trust the receiver's ability to recognise where their threshold lies. And to let somebody help us, we need to trust them to be able to do the same.
Extremely generous people often cross their own giving threshold as they want to come to aid no matter what. And they don't use their receiving threshold as they rarely help themselves or let someone else do it. This behaviour ultimately leads to an energy imbalance as they struggle to recharge and nurture themselves. The paradox at this point is that despite the amount of effort they put in place, the energy they are able to project is not meeting the receiver's needs. As a result, those in need take the distance and decide to go searching elsewhere.
Here’s a list of a few things we can do in order to start restoring balance:
Find time for yourself. Set 20 minutes a day aside to do something relaxing, in a space where you are not going to be interrupted. Meditate, listen to binaural beats music, breathe, disconnect from the anxiety of your daily routine. Taking care of yourself every day will make you more relaxed, patient and willing to listen. It’s also going to give you a better insight about your giving and receiving threshold.
Try different things, or different ways to do the same thing, as much as you can. Try a different kind of food, find a new way to go to work, accept invitations from acquaintances. Don’t get disappointed if you don’t like the outcome, you are making discoveries. The mind opening process is more important than the results.
Start using “It’s not my priority” instead of “I don’t have time”. The simple truth is that willingly or not we waste a lot of time during the day. It comes down to us and to the way we prioritise things. Every time we procrastinate we waste time and energy, and becoming accountable for that waste can give amazing results. This simple switch can give us a new perspective, allowing us to understand the things in our lives we need to re-prioritise. “I didn’t have the time to go to the doctor” sounds different from “It wasn’t my priority to go to the doctor”. And so it does “I don’t have the time to give you a lift, darling” instead of “giving you a lift is not my priority”. The second option makes us definitely sound more like an irresponsible, egotistical arse.
Now, when it comes down to finding time for ourselves we might be able to live with the statement “it’s not my priority”. But we always have to remember that the way we feel influences those who are surrounding us in a positive or negative way. If finding 20 minutes a day can affect our mood and our health, it certainly is a priority.