The boundaries of selflessness.

There are moments when I feel invisible, as if I’m moving through this world unnoticed – a fixture in another person’s story. I am the girl who doesn’t scream or beg for attention. I wouldn’t know what to do with it, and I probably wouldn’t want it. I would wear it uncomfortably – a bright sweater in a pattern that is louder than me. And I don’t like when people look at me, expecting a continual flow of entertainment. I don’t know how to provide that. I freeze up. My mind empties. I am full of thoughts and feelings, things I wish to add to a conversation, but I lose them under the scrutiny.

Perhaps being invisible is more suited to me?

But the problem with invisibility is that it leaves me void. There is no fulfillment in being ignored or unnoticed. Nor does it lend itself to happiness. It is a lonely existence. A one-sided love affair. I takes everything from me, leaving feelings of being unloved, unneeded, unspecial in its wake. Is it wrong to want to feel special, even if only to a few people who truly see you?

Though I suppose to say I am always invisible is a selfish untruth. I’m not invisible always. Not on the days when someone calls on my help or needs someone to talk to. Not when I have something to offer. There are times when I offer everything. Yet I receive so little.

It breaks my heart, to be used then set aside – a toy or plaything that loses its luster after a few rounds of merriment – a victim of someone’s lack of interest.

It is my weakness, or rather my fault; my need to be helpful. I like to give what I can when it’s required or asked. I don’t believe that’s wrong. But not at the risk of draining my spirit, of hurting me, of taking what God created to make me special and using it as a weapon against me.

I’m bad at saying no.
Sometimes I don’t want to. I have found my way into the horrific, pathetic role of people pleaser. But maybe there are times when I need to. To save myself. To protect myself. To keep me sane.

To allow me happiness.

I’m bad at boundaries.
At protecting my heart. My self. I give all of me at once if I feel safe, loved, or cared for. If I believe a friendship or relationship is reciprocated equally, I leave little hidden. I don’t see the need, because I expect those around me to keep me protected, not to take advantage. To actually love me when they say they do without abusing it.

I expect too much.

I must take care of my own wellbeing before I can care for the wellbeing of others. I have a responsibility to myself. If I am drained, empty, or feeling used, I have nothing left to give those I truly adore.

Because if I give everything away, there is nothing left for me. No spirit left to fuel my passions, my creativity, my life and soul. If I empty myself to everyone, what is left to keep me going? To keep me smiling? To keep me fulfilled?

I’d like to believe the people in my life, the ones who truly care about me, would want that for me.

Because my worth as a friend is not determined by the number of times I say yes. I am not special because I always answer the email, text, or phone call. I am not special because I am helpful. I am special for all the moments outside what I can offer. I am special because of the woman I am in the deepest parts of my soul, not because of what people take from me.

I am special for what I can give, but not because I give it.

And I am allowed to say no and create boundaries. I am allowed to take care of myself, to say that is too much to ask of me. I am allowed to step back and say that I deserve better than a relationship that takes advantage of me. I am worth the time and effort that comes from someone being interested in my needs and wants and worries from time to time. I am allowed to ask for that.

Because so often are we told to be selfless. To give everything we have to those around us. We show our love in our actions, right? But what does it say if we are constantly giving and receiving nothing? Or rather, what does it say if we are constantly taking without feeling the need to return? Neither is fair, and neither is an illustration of love.

Not every action requires an immediate return in the quid-pro-quo style of “I’ll do this for you, then you’ll do that for me” – a contest of who is the better friend or lover or sister or brother. But neither should a friendship or relationship be one-sided with one person constantly taking what another is giving. That is not selflessness – the expectation of receiving. That is how you lose yourself – a sad abuse played out over and over at the cost of your soul.

I want to give myself freely, to help because I love it. Not because people expect it of me – a selfish demand of selflessness.

So I want you to know that saying no isn’t selfish. Protecting your heart from being used isn’t selfish. Creating boundaries to keep you motivated, energized, and full of passion isn’t selfish. It is a necessity. You are allowed to take care of yourself. You are allowed to say, “I cannot do this for you.” Because your worth is not found in pleasing others because they demand it of you. Your worth is found in your beautiful heart and loving soul, and you must take care of it. Allow it rest and be at peace. You must realize that your happiness and sanity and fulfillment should not be sacrificed for someone else’s. There is no love in that.

And you are worth being loved for everything you are, not everything you give.

Thank you for reading! And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter >> @cassiclerget.
I’m pretty entertaining.


11 thoughts on “The boundaries of selflessness.

  1. “I am special for what I can give, but not because I give it… You are allowed to say, “I cannot do this for you.” Because your worth is not found in pleasing others because they demand it of you… You must realize that your happiness and sanity and fulfillment should not be sacrificed for someone else’s. There is no love in that.”

    Yes, yes, yes. Thank you. I nearly cried reading this. This is just what I needed to hear today. I feel so conflicted when i do what I need to as opposed to what they WANT me to. I can’t even be happy doing what I want to because I know I am disappointing them in some way. It is my job to stop thinking like that, I know, but I am trying to work on it. Thank you again for the great post.

    • My pleasure :) And stay strong. Because you are allowed to do things that make you happy, and you are allowed to say no. You have to take care of yourself, otherwise life isn’t as enjoyable. And you deserve to enjoy life.
      Thank you for reading :)


  2. sososo much truth all woven throughout this article. not only do you have a gift with words, but you have such a way of expressing ideas clearly and beautifully. bravo, cassie!

  3. I love this!!! I struggle with saying no, too. Its hard to have any kind of relationship because love seems to spill over every boundary I try to set. I haven’t figured out what to do about it yet, but I’m working on seeing compassion as a strength instead of a weakness.

    Also: some of my favorite quotes that I think fit well here….

    “There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature. My attachments are always excessively strong.” -Jane Austen

    “I have never found anybody who could stand to accept the daily demonstrative love I feel in me, and give back as good as I give.” – Sylvia Plath

    “A big heart is both a clunky and delicate thing; it doesn’t protect itself and it doesn’t hide.” -Anne Lammot

    “Love anything and your heart will be wrung, possibly broken.” -CS Lewis

    “Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.” -Andrew Boyd

    • That is one of my favorite quotes from Austen! I have it written out in a sketchbook somewhere. And the others are all wonderful.
      Thanks for reading, Mikayla! And I think compassion is a lovely strength to have. Love others, but also love yourself enough to keep your boundaries. (I know it’s not the easiest thing…)


  4. If I didn’t know better, I would think this article was proof of experience with online dating, aka “A Short Course in Narcissism,” or as I have come to refer to it, “the bargain bin.”

    Narcissists are the ones who will most expect you to give and give (and give, and give some more) without ever feeling like they need to give anything to you in return. In fact, they will even lecture you on how you need to give more, and that true love is about “(you) giving (to them) without expecting anything in return.” And when you are no longer “useful” to them, they have no further use for you. Narcissism is a fascinating subject, but one better learned about through reading and study, if possible, than through experience! Unfortunately, people being who they are, most of us get multiple opportunities to learn about it from experience, too. Worth knowing about, though, so you can recognize it when it starts to threaten you, and put a stop to it before you get to the point of feeling “drained, empty, and…used.”

    Enjoyed your mention of the “few people who truly see you.” Narcissists can never see you, other than as a means to their own selfish ends. Someone who does truly see you is on the other end of the scale—someone who has learned to see other people as being as fully human as themselves. (Someone truly able to love their neighbors as well as they love themselves.) In this culture, at least, those people are very rare, and are to be treasured when you find them.

  5. Pingback: Dating Post #90: What’s Most Important | Twitterpated by Spookysister7

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