Over the past year or so, I've developed a passion for astrology in the hopes of better understanding myself and others. In the process, I've learned a lot about my zodiac sign and how it influences my behavior. As an Aquarius, one of my defining characteristics is "humanitarian," and for a long time, I struggled to understand what that meant. I mean, sure, I'm a generous person, but I'm not feeding the hungry every weekend or building houses for the homeless or anything.
As time passed, however, and as I began developing a stronger sense of self and identity, the pieces started to come together. Humanitarians are driven by the needs of other humans. They see someone suffering, and they help. They see a problem, and they intrinsically assume responsibility for fixing it. No, I may not be a literal humanitarian, but if my compulsion to put everyone else's needs before my own is any indication, I have definitely grown to identify with my Aquarian traits.
The problem with all of my best qualities is that they do just as much harm as they do good. Because when you're like me and are fueled by empathy, you have no sense of self-preservation. You internalize other people's pain to try and ease their load. You give and give and give — whether you're asked to or not — because it's in your nature to heal what's broken, even if it isn't your responsibility. And in doing so, you completely lose yourself trying to be a million different things to a million different people. You can't be everything to everyone, and I am just now starting to realize that.
I know I can't continue to put everyone else first at the expense of my own happiness, but old habits die hard. After a lifetime of being ready to drop everything and give away all my emotional energy at any given moment, it's difficult to learn how to establish new boundaries. I can't help but feel guilty every time I turn someone down and can't be what they need me to be, but I know that there is only so much of myself that I can give. If I don't allow myself to recharge, I won't be of any use to anyone.
Prioritizing yourself doesn't make you a selfish person. You do it so that you have the capacity to be of better help to the ones you love and because you owe it to yourself to find inner peace and happiness. It's not worth it to go through life as a people-pleaser if doing so leaves you broken and exhausted. You deserve more than that, and once you begin to acknowledge your own self-worth, the guilt of putting yourself first starts to fade away.
The fact is, I'm not always going to be able to fix everything, and I'm learning to be OK with that. It isn't easy to let go of my need for control and my desire to make everything perfect all the time, but I know I'll be a happier person in the end for it. There's only so much I can do and give before I start to lose myself, and it's OK that I have those limits.
It's hard to strike a balance between being a humanitarian and putting myself first, but I'm trying. Some days I feel like I've gotten the hang of it until I find myself in a situation where I'm left running on empty because I've disregarded my own needs and feelings to prioritize those of everyone else. I know it's not always going to be easy, but I'm worth the work it takes to find happiness. The road is long, but at least I know that I'm on my way.