I spent years putting others’ needs before mine. Now, I’m alone and they have no idea.

You’ve probably heard the narrative before, right? The perpetual giving, always there for others, yet when I needed them, they were nowhere to be found. That’s my story—constantly prioritizing others, neglecting my own desires for years.

A dedicated friend, always offering support, yet here I am now, alone with my thoughts.

The irony? They remain oblivious, unaware of the sacrifices and toll it took on me. To them, I’m just the ever-helpful friend who never asks for anything in return. Today, we’re turning the spotlight on this overlooked perspective, offering a glimpse into a world where selflessness doesn’t always come without a cost.

Welcome to my world.

Always available, even at my own expense

I can’t count the number of times I’ve dropped everything to be there for someone else. Late night calls from friends in distress, last-minute requests for help with projects, unexpected visits from family members who “just happened to be in the neighborhood.” You name it, I’ve done it.

There was this one time, I had planned a quiet evening at home – you know, just me, a good book and a cup of tea. Just as I was about to settle down, I received a call from a friend who was going through a rough break up. Without a second thought, I put my plans aside and rushed over to their place.

C’était moi: Ever ready to be at other people’s beck and call in the name of empathy, even if it meant shoving my own needs into the background.

Listening more than speaking

I’ve always been the listener. The shoulder to lean on, the ear to vent to. People would pour out their hearts to me, and I would listen. I would offer advice when asked, comfort when needed. But when it was my turn to speak, to share my feelings or concerns, somehow the conversation would always steer back to them.

For instance, I remember trying to talk about my work stress to a colleague once. He had been sharing his problems all week and I thought it was finally my turn. But the moment I started speaking about my issues, he quickly brushed them off and started talking about his weekend plans.

In these ways and more, I’ve spent years putting others’ needs before mine. And now? Now, they have no idea that there’s more to me than just being their go-to person.

Over time, self-neglect becomes a habit

It’s not always easy to see when you’re putting others before yourself. Often, it starts subtly. A small favor here, an extra task there. But over time, these acts of service can build up and become a habit.

In fact, research suggests that people who consistently place others’ needs before their own are more likely to experience burnout and emotional exhaustion. This can lead to a decrease in overall well-being and an increased risk of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

The irony is that while we think we’re helping others by always being there for them, we may actually be doing more harm than good – both to ourselves and to our relationships.

Loneliness can creep in

I’ve always believed that being there for others meant that they’d be there for me too. But that wasn’t the case. The more I put others ahead of me, the more I felt alone.

You see, when you’re constantly meeting others’ needs, it’s easy to forget about your own. And when your own needs aren’t being met, it’s easy to feel lonely, even when you’re surrounded by others.

This loneliness isn’t just about being physically alone. It’s about feeling emotionally disconnected, like no one truly understands or appreciates you. It’s a harsh reality to face, especially when you’ve spent so much time and effort caring for others.

They don’t know because I didn’t tell them

Kept things to herself I spent years putting others' needs before mine. Now, I'm alone and they have no idea.

And here’s the clincher – they have no idea. They didn’t know because I never told them. I kept my feelings bottled up, afraid that expressing them would make me seem selfish or needy.

I remember a particular instance with a close friend. We’d planned to meet up for coffee and catch up, but at the last minute, she asked if we could reschedule because something had come up. I agreed, even though it was the third time she had done this. But I didn’t tell her how I felt. I didn’t tell her that her cancellations were hurtful and made me feel unimportant.

Looking back, I realize that by not expressing my feelings, I was essentially giving others the green light to continue treating me this way. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but an important lesson learned.

It’s easy to lose sight of your own worth

Here’s the thing: when you’re constantly putting others first, it’s easy to lose sight of your own worth. You start to believe that your needs are less important, that you’re less important.

I recall staring at myself in the mirror one day, wondering who I was beyond the person who was always there for others. I realized that in my pursuit to be there for everyone else, I had lost sight of my own identity, my own worth.

It’s a stark realization, one that can really shake you up. But it’s also a necessary wake-up call.

Learning to prioritize myself

The journey to start putting myself first wasn’t easy. It involved a lot of self-reflection and difficult conversations. But most importantly, it required me to unlearn years of self-neglect.

I started small – by saying no to requests that infringed on my personal time. I also started prioritizing self-care activities like yoga and meditation. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary.

Over time, I noticed a shift. I felt happier, more fulfilled. And surprisingly, my relationships didn’t suffer. If anything, they improved because I was no longer resentful or burnt out.

Well-being wisdom: setting boundaries, sustaining connections

Closing this chapter of my life, one lesson stands out: prioritizing others, though commendable, left me feeling alone. The reality is, the sacrifices I made often went unnoticed, and my silent devotion didn’t always lead to mutual understanding. 

It’s a simple truth: our well-being matters, and setting boundaries isn’t selfish; it’s essential for maintaining meaningful connections. While helping others is admirable, it shouldn’t come at the expense of our own well-being. Striking this balance is the key to a fulfilling and harmonious existence.

Picture of Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley, a London-based writer, is passionate about helping others discover the power of self-improvement. Her approach combines everyday wisdom with practical strategies, shaped by her own journey overcoming personal challenges. Eliza's articles resonate with those seeking to navigate life's complexities with grace and strength.

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