I can’t be everything to everyone. Repeat. I can’t be everything to everyone. This is the mantra I whisper inside my head. This is the nagging thought I try to hide behind to-do lists and scraps of notebook paper, behind a big smile and too many unanswered emails, behind my own frustration at wanting to be both selfless and selfish and not knowing which side of my heart to listen to more.
I’ve always wanted to be someone who fixes, someone who is there for the people in her life. Someone who, beyond a doubt, can be trusted, can be looked up to, can be relied on. Because for some reason I’ve always believed dependence means love, and when someone can lean on me, I’m somehow more worthy of the love I’m searching for.
But somewhere along the way, I stopped thinking about what I needed and started focusing on what everyone else needed. I started to do more, and more, and more. I thought if I could just take on one more project, if I could do just one more thing, I could fix everything that was wrong with the people I loved, if I could somehow keep them from hurting, if I could be the ultimate girlfriend/friend/daughter/sister/lover/person then I would finally be good enough. I could finally be someone they were proud of. I could finally look in the mirror and love myself.
What I failed to realize, though, was that I was trying to fill this little emptiness in my heart by taking on other people’s problems instead of mending my own. I was trying to do and be so much that I had no energy to love myself, to heal myself, to strengthen myself.
And as I was building up others, I was taking away bits and pieces of myself.
And it sucked.
I felt empty. What should have been filling me, left me feeling worthless. Because I couldn’t save the people I loved from their demons, and I was already too distracted and exhausted to fight my own. I was tired. And I was trying to be everything to everyone instead of just trying to be myself.
So I had to let go, piece by piece. I had to let people stand on their own. I had to support and encourage from a distance. I had to learn what was my fight, and what was not my place.
I had to learn that my worth was not dependent on whether or not I could fix what was around me, rather who I was and could become on my own.
And over time, I regained my wings. I learned to love, but not lose myself. I learned the value of my opinions, my thoughts, my schedule. And I learned to lessen my load so that I could carry my own burdens. So that I could fight through and let them go, one by one.
And now, with you, I realize it’s not about what you need. It’s not about who you want me to be. It’s not about molding myself to fit into your arms. It’s not about making you happy at the cost of losing myself.
I spent so long trying to be everything to everyone. Trying to be the best girlfriend, the available friend, the go-to confidant, the party buddy, the best daughter, the honest listener, the fighter, the lover, the healer, the advice-giver, the everything.
Until I was nothing.
But I’m not her anymore.
I’m not the girl who falls into the roles she’s asked to play, the girl who molds like a chameleon to the people and relationships around her.
I can’t be who you need me to be—even if you love me—and I’m learning that’s okay. Because love isn’t about fitting into the shoes you’re asked to wear, it’s not about changing yourself to be ‘easier,’ to be ‘better,’ to make more sense in someone’s eyes.
Love is a little selfless, but it’s selfish too. It’s about knowing who you are, coming to the table as you are, loving as you are. And being loved as you are.
It’s not about being everything, but about being something to one person. Something incredible.