I’ve been reflecting on how many of us, particularly women, find ourselves focusing our energies excessively onto others, to the point that we lose our sense of having a self. These others are usually partners or children, although they can be friends, colleagues, parents. Often the experience of having had a parent who dedicates herself to the care of the family – seemingly asking or expecting nothing for herself except the role as caregiver – leads us to expect something similar of ourselves. So when we find ourselves as parents or partners we resort to that template of behaviour. However, being so eternally self-sacrificing can lead to a loss of self. I’ve witnessed others bewilderment when asked, ‘But what is it that you want?’; as if the concept of having their own needs and desires has fallen so far from view as to be virtually inaccessible.
Being able to balance listening to and understanding others with listening to and understanding our own concerns, viewpoints and preferences moves us towards equal relationships. I believe that we need to both listen to our own thoughts and our partner’s (or children’s, or friend’s), and respond to both with equal interest and care.