Another Reason To Stand Up For Yourself

This is a true story thatold_lady I experienced many years ago. I’ve often said that my clients teach me something every day. Well, this client taught me a great deal in a matter of minutes. I hope her story impacts you as it did me.

About twenty years ago I was asked to do a consultation at a skilled nursing center. The patient was a 97 year old woman who was exhibiting symptoms of depression.

When I arrived at the facility I reviewed her chart and made my way to her room. There I found a very prim and proper lady sitting up in a chair and fully dressed. She invited me to have a seat, as she was expecting me, and knew the reason for my visit.

Following introductions, I began the process of getting to know her and assessing her symptoms. Her thinking was very clear, and she answered my questions readily.

After about fifteen minutes of conversation, she interrupted my interview abruptly by saying, “You can stop now.”

I responded, “Stop what?”

She explained, “You can stop asking me questions. You see, I know you are trying to understand the reason for my depression, and I know very well why I’m depressed. I have been observing you as we’ve talked. I have decided that I can trust you, so I will tell you why I’m depressed and save us both some time.”

Somewhat taken aback, I simply said, “OK, why are you depressed?”

She continued, “You see, I’m 97 years old. I know that, at best, I will only live two or three more years, but that isn’t why I’m depressed. The reason that I’m depressed is that, when I look back over my life, I realize that I have lived my entire life for everyone else. I have spent my years trying to please everyone else or at least not displease them. I did what others wanted me to do. I lived my life for them while they were living their lives for themselves, and no one has lived a life for me, not even me. And now it’s too late.”

I was so struck with the lady’s words that I have no idea what I said after that point. I hope I provided some comfort.     Parables for a Wounded Heart: Overcoming the Wounds to Your Self-Esteem and Transforming Your Perception of You  (2012)


Question: How can we balance the need to take care of the needs of others and also take care of our own needs? Do you think self-esteem wounds sometimes cause us to ignore our own needs, in an attempt to please those around us?

I'm a psychologist, who helps people who have sustained self-esteem wounds from past negative experiences, overcome those wounds and experience a more positive self-worth, so they can live more joyful and satisfying lives.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

5 thoughts on “Another Reason To Stand Up For Yourself

  1. As a spousal caregiver, I have come to understand that in order to fully meet my husband’s needs, I must not ignore my own. An empty vessel cannot pour out what is necessary for sustaining a good life for someone else. So taking care of myself means I can also take care of him.

    • There are many situations that seem to test our ability to balance the two needs. I think the best we can do is to maintain an awareness of the need for such balance. We then have to work on it with each day’s new demands.

  2. It seems to be very difficult for many of us to find behaviors that implement this viewpoint into our daily lives. Thanks for offering it one more time to assist with the realization that truly our behavior is a daily choice for each us. ^

  3. I definitely believe that “self-esteem wounds sometimes cause us to ignore our own needs, in an attempt to please those around us”…some of us learned that performance is love and that if we do not perform for the happiness of others, then they may take their love away or we are “bad.” We learn to become people pleasers, often and sadly, at our own expense. I have recently “drawn the line” with some things in my life in order to begin learning how to be more assertive in protecting myself and to learn how to live my own life and not let others live it for me. It has not been received well by some, but it is something I had to do for my own well-being.

  4. You’re right about the performance-gets-love connection. I’m happy to hear that you are drawing the line to be more assertive. We truly can love those around us without sacrificing love for ourselves. It’s all about balance It usually is.

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