When I was in kindergarten, I came home from school one day in tears. My mom asked me what was wrong, and I told her that kids in my class complimented my pencils. My mom, of course, didn’t understand why this was a problem. I then went on to tell her that because people liked my pencils, I gave them all away. I was then a sad little girl with no pencils.

This innocent little story lays out my main flaw that I still have today. I am a people pleaser. I always have been, and probably always will be. When I was younger, I believed this was a good thing. I strive to make others happy before myself. One of my favorite things in this world is to see people that I love smile.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that being a people pleaser is often a huge problem for me. I give people everything, and often times, I end up with nothing. Most of my heart belongs to other people rather than to myself. I let toxic family members, friends and cute boys rob me of everything I have, and I end up feeling worthless.

I am guilty of offering up way too much at times. And trust me, some people have taken up on these offers and given me nothing in return. But I’m usually genuinely OK with it.

The thing to know is that, unfortunately, not all people are good people. Not all people are like you, and some people do not care at all how you feel.

I know that there are people out there like me. I have found a couple of them so far, and I love it when we compare stories. I am satisfied to know that I am not the only one who puts their whole heart into everything they do and the people they pursue.

At 20 years old, I am trying to find a balance between making others feel good and making myself feel good. I am starting to learn that it is OK to put myself and my emotions first.

Of course, I am partly to blame for the extent of my people-pleasing ways. I am old enough to know that my emotions and mental health should not come at the expense of someone else.

My mother says to me, “Katie, if you spend all of your time trying to make everyone else happy, the only person who won’t be happy is you.”

And this is true.

I like to think that I am generally a happy person. But sometimes I am not. And usually, my unhappiness comes from the fact that I cannot receive the approval of someone else.

I am starting to surround myself with an army of loved ones and friends who I don’t need to impress. I long to find people that appreciate me for me, and not what I can give them. But I would like to keep some of my innocence and giving spirit. I love to be able to give things to others without expecting anything in return. However, I need to learn when enough is enough. I need to start to see when someone is taking me for granted. Because sometimes I haven’t seen it soon enough. And, as you can imagine, it ends up breaking my heart.

It is perfectly acceptable to tell someone no when you want to. It is fine to deny the requests of others when you need some time for yourself. It is understandable if you want to do something to make yourself happy for a change.

Moral of the story: you can give some of your pencils away, but remember to keep some for yourself.