The Selfless Carer posture
Updated: Nov 15
For some of us, being caring, selfless and always putting others has become an essential part of who we are. Making others happy makes us feel good too. It is rewarding. However, these tendencies can also hold us back, and prevent us from caring for ourselves, setting healthy boundaries and achieving what we want in our careers and lives.
If this sounds familiar, know that you’re not alone. This article will shed light on the Selfless Carer posture and provide guidance on transitioning towards empowerment and fulfilment as self-assured professionals.
The Making of a Selfless Carer
As children, caring, empathetic young children were often praised for being “little helpers” or, for girls, “good girls”. It felt good to be appreciated and needed. This cycle of gaining validation through caring for others’ needs continued into adulthood. For many women, motherhood often reinforces these tendencies with many mothers finding themselves as the pivotal carer at home.
The Selfless Carer is intensely attuned to others’ emotions and feels a strong duty to help. They struggle with guilt when saying no and go out of their way to avoid upsetting or inconveniencing people. Their own needs often go unexpressed.
At work, the Selfless Carer takes on extra tasks without considering their own limits. They have difficulty delegating or asking for support. Conflict and confrontation make them deeply uncomfortable. They avoid rocking the boat at all costs.
While the Selfless Carer’s empathy and care for others are tremendous gifts, their lack of boundaries and people-pleasing tendencies often lead to exhaustion and resentment over time.
Signs of Being a Selfless Carer
Here are some telltale signs of being a Selfless Carer:
You say “sorry” and take blame frequently, even when mistakes aren’t your fault or there is nothing to apologise for,
You accept extra work and responsibilities without considering if you have the capacity for it,
You have trouble saying no, even when requests are unreasonable,
You suppress your own needs and priorities to accommodate others’,
You accept things for yourself that you wouldn’t want - nor let - others to experience,
You feel guilty when setting limits or boundaries,
You absorb others’ stress and emotions as your own,
You experience fatigue, burnout and give more than you receive in relationships.
The Weight of Selflessness
The Selfless Carer drives themselves to exhaustion in the name of being helpful and avoiding conflict. Their tendency to put everyone else’s needs first often leaves little time for self-care or pursuing their own dreams.
In the workplace, the Selfless Carer takes on disproportionate amounts of work, feels immense pressure to always be agreeable and struggles to advocate for their own career advancement. They have difficulty delegating or collaborating healthily, instead taking all burdens onto their own shoulders.
Over years of ignoring their own limits and emotions, the Selfless Carer can grow increasingly resentful of always giving more than they receive. Suppressed anger may build, leading to passive-aggressive behaviour or eventually total burnout.
To sustain a happy, healthy life, steps must be taken to cultivate empowerment and self-care.
The Limits of Selflessness
In reality, caring for others might not be as selfless an act. The Selfless Carer cares for others not only for the sake of others but for their own sake too and for the validation they receive for doing so. It doesn’t take anything away from the genuine help and support they provide for others. But something is expected in return. Recognition. Reward. Validation. Giving without receiving isn’t enough to sustain the selfless carer.
Whether it is at home or at work, the resentment can grow from not getting the “return” and lead to exhaustion, both physical and emotional, as well as feelings of isolation, not feeling heard and not feeling seen. Often, the Selfless Carer is not able to sustain themselves on their own and needs that return from others to feel their worth.
It takes courage, but the Selfless Carer must learn to step into their own worth and set compassionate limits. Here are some key steps:
Practice saying no without apologising or justifying yourself. You have a right to set your own limits,
Delegate tasks rather than automatically taking them on. Ask sincere questions about others’ bandwidth… and your own.
Have regular check-ins to express your own evolving needs and priorities, not just anticipate others’ needs, have conversations about your own experience,
Be aware of resentment build-up and process it constructively to avoid passive aggression or burnout,
Consider if you give more than you receive in relationships. Reciprocity and balance matter,
Make self-care and rest non-negotiable. You cannot effectively care for others without caring for yourself first,
In the workplace, ask for promotions, raises and advancement actively, rather than waiting to be rewarded. Clarity and communication of expectations are key to knowing where you stand, avoiding disappointment and minimising missed opportunities.
It’s not selfish to honour your own needs. In fact, it allows you to give from a place of genuine abundance versus lack. The most helpful caregivers employ healthy boundaries. Prioritizing yourself equips you to genuinely uplift others.
Think about it, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Making time to fill your own cup not only benefits you but the world too.
Owning Your Worth
Part of empowerment for the Selfless Carer is also recognising their tremendous worth. Here are helpful mindset shifts:
Acknowledge that your empathy, caregiving and ability to connect are profound gifts. You have so much to offer.
Know that you deserve rest, joy and the ability to pursue your dreams just like anyone else. Actively make space for fun and idleness.
View your talents for what they truly are. Progress, not perfection, is the goal.
Advocate proudly for your advancement and needs. You are worth the care you so easily provide others.
Let go of guilt when focusing on yourself. When you feel good and allow yourself to be all that you can be, it enables you to uplift others powerfully.
Trust your intuition. Those strong instincts that guide you to help others can guide you to take care of yourself too.
Making the transition from endlessly selfless to empowered requires effort, self-compassion and believing wholly in your own worth. But the result is being able to give from a place of wholeness, not depletion. You heal others by first healing yourself.
If you recognise yourself in the Selfless Carer posture, know that you are not alone. Many caring, empathetic professionals experience these challenges. But it does not need to stay this way.
With consistent practice, you can learn to set boundaries, delegate, acknowledge your needs and advocate for your dreams and wants. It’s a journey, but each small step powers your purpose and potential.
You have what it takes to acknowledge and embrace your own worth, while continuing to make a profound difference through your gift of true care for others. That care becomes even more powerful when it flows from a place of wholeness.
So have faith in yourself and in your inner wisdom. Allow yourself to ask for what you want and receive. The most helpful caregivers are skilled at self-caring for themselves too. Here’s to your growth, empowerment and caring for each other.