I didn’t know what she meant when she told me, “Shanta, your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness.” I didn’t understand what she meant, nodded but I didn’t comprehend. I knew there was a nugget of great truth in there and for me to get the most out of it; I had to figure it out on my own.
Roughly a year later, one day walking the dog, I realized I was happy. I was smiling, and happy for no good reason. Content. Relaxed. Cheerful. And the only reason I could come up with why I was happy was because I simply didn’t care anymore.
I didn’t care what people thought of me. I didn’t care what they were nattering about. I didn’t give a rip what they were doing this exact moment. But mostly it was because I didn’t care what people were saying or thought of me.
There is no moment in time that defined when I stopped caring. Or a death. Or an ah-ha moment. Or an argument.
I was happy. And I didn’t care anymore. Then it came to me: My greatest strength was that I cared too much. About everything. My husband, my children, my house, my volunteerism, my passions, my everything.
If there were ever a poster child for The Overachievers Society, it would be me.
If I was going to be a wife, I was going to win Wife of the Year. Every year. I was going to care for him so hard, he couldn’t live without me.
If I were going to be a mother, I’d put every other mother in the history of the universe to shame.
If I were going to volunteer, I’d be Chairperson and make record-breaking years. (True story – when I started helping with Girl Guides in Fox Creek, within two years I was running the whole district and we sold record-breaking number of cookie boxes. When I started as a driver for wildlife rehabilitation, within a year I was chair of the fund raising and five years later, they still haven’t broken the record I set. I sincerely wish they could.)
And so on. Above and beyond what was expected. Insisted by me and me only. Like I had something to prove. Or maybe I was hoping that if I cared so much, it would be returned. (Spoiler alert – it never was.)
The problem was, I assume people wanted my caring. I assumed it would be nice to have someone help. I assumed they needed my help. I assumed my blow-it-out of the water attitude was appreciated.
They didn’t and for the most part, it wasn’t.
My greatest strength, caring, became my greatest weakness.
I over care. I hurt when people hurt. I tried to relieve their hurt to relieve my own suffering.
The problem was forgetting to alleviate my own hurt. I was forgetting to put ME first. I was getting lost in the over-caring. I was losing myself because I never got to myself. By the time everything and everyone was looked after, I was too exhausted to look after me.
And no one was caring for me; especially in the way I was caring for others. When disaster hit, I stumbled, and hard. I had nothing to give myself. I gave it all away. Every last drop. I collapsed because there was nothing to hold me up. I had no foundations on how to look after myself.
It’s been over two years now since that terrible day I was told I was no longer loved, needed or wanted, and I am finally content. Genuinely, smile on my face before coffee, happy. Joyful and positive. And it’s all because and for me. There is no one else here to make me happy.
And the best part is, because someone else didn’t bring in the happiness, no one can take that happiness from me. It’s all mine.
I gave the keys to my happiness away once and they lost them. I’ve rekeyed and no one is getting these ones. You can play with them but you’ll never get to keep them. They’re precious and they’re mine alone.
I have turned my greatest strength on myself. And now I don’t care. And it’s fabulous.
I haven’t lost my empathy, I’ve gained my self-preservation, but without being selfish. Au contraire, generosity still pulses through my veins, maybe even more so now. It’s just altered.
I’ve turned my greatest strength back into my greatest strength. And I can’t imagine living any other way, ever again.