Today I want to write about capacity. The desire our children or partners, employers or friends may place upon us for more. This could be asking for time, energy, bandwidth, or attention – all of it is their desire. There is our ability to meet their need or potentially find that we lack the capacity to meet that need. It can feel like failure when someone brings us needs that we cannot fulfill – particularly when we want to help. In healthy relationships we may wish to grow ourselves in order to be a better match for our companions.
First, let’s look at this from the perspective of boundaries and what is appropriate. Other people may make requests of us. Namely our children, friends, or partners, with whom we are in healthy and reciprocal relationships may ask us to grow. Relationships built upon trust and healthy boundaries. In these relationships we may occasionally be asked to rise to the occasion – which we may choose or choose not to do. It is important to remember this as a decision.
We may demonstrate either our willingness to rise or our decisiveness to decline. Assessing this opportunity might lead us to recognize that the stakes for this ask are too high. Or the request may be outside of our willingness to give. It is possible for us to increase our capacity. It is possible to choose to step forward into a new comfort zone. However the decision must be made willingly, not due to pressure from others.
Choices to increase our capacity include seeking counseling, therapy, reading self-help materials or engaging proactively in self-work. The choice to work through our own traumas, emotions, and rebuild or destroy bridges is a heavy one. This is not light lifting or easy work. It is necessary work only if we want to meet those we love where they are and feel ready to do so. Not simply because we want to be able to meet their needs and expectations of us.
To raise your capacity requires digging in to the difficult work of self-care and self-love. It means taking ownership for your role in the care and nurturing of your personal energy and needs. It also means being willing to be more vulnerable and open to the people we love.
I cannot stress strongly enough the necessity of only doing this work for and with professional guidance and only in healthy relationships. This work is not meant to support co-dependence. These are not matters that you can resolve by working on yourself alone. But if you want to give more and feel you can’t without help, that is when you may choose to invest time, energy, and resources in working through the deeply impactful challenges you have faced in life.
We all have the capacity to give. The ability to look deeply at our histories and learn more about our own healing and growth exists. Choosing to do so is an option. You may wish to increase your capacity as a loving devotion to yourself and your loved ones. Do not tear open old wounds in an attempt to demonstrate martyrdom. You will only re-traumatize yourself and this is an act of violence on your own tender heart.
When someone asks you for more than you are comfortable giving that may be an attempt to subvert your boundaries. It is totally appropriate not to make changes to yourself if you don’t want to do this. Hold your boundaries and only give what you are comfortable sharing. Do not go out of your way to meet another person’s needs, simply because they ask, or demand, or will whine or complain. Your work is not to make yourself miserable for the benefit of someone else. Relationships between adults are meant to be reciprocal and it is not your role to sacrifice your personal wellbeing or health to accommodate anyone else. Anyone who attempts to center themselves at a cost to you is not asking for love or support. They are asking you to sacrifice your welling being for theirs. This is not an appropriate or reasonable ask.
Choose to increase your capacity on your own terms. Choose to do so in order to come to the world a more honest, full, and complete version of yourself. Increase capacity so that you have more to give yourself first. Listen and trust yourself. Set and hold your boundaries. It is ok to be willing to grow in order to be a better person, parent, or partner. But let being better for yourself be your first reason. Your heart will know the difference and the gift is that much better when it comes from your heart and not from a place of control.