The consequences of neglecting your own life jacket

Imagine yourself struggling in the turbulent waters of life, caught in a whirlwind of challenges. Recent events have left you reeling, grappling with anxiety, stress, depression, and various other burdens that are pushing you to your breaking point. Amidst this chaos, who are you?


There are several paths you might take:

  1. A life jacket is thrown to you. You recognise the lifeline, put it on, and allow someone to help you rise from the depths.
  2. A life jacket is thrown to you. You hesitate, believing it's not meant for you, and persist in your struggle, hoping for a miraculous solution.
  3. A life jacket is thrown to you, only for you to reject it outright.

In my observations, I've witnessed people traversing all these paths. Some have contacted me for assistance but eventually chose the latter two options. I sincerely hope they've either found the right life jacket or realised their need for one and called out for help.

However, what concerns me most are those who fall into a different category:

A life jacket is thrown to them, yet they glance around and spot another individual drowning. They unhesitatingly hand over their own life jacket, repeating this selfless act time and time again. These individuals are drained, their heads barely above water. They've become so accustomed to offering their life jackets that they forget to secure one for themselves, so they can aid others without sinking.

If this scenario resonates with you, the first step is recognising your pattern. Acknowledge your unconscious tendency to prioritise others over yourself. Understand that you've relegated yourself to the backseat in the vast sea of life. Your drive to assist, care, and support others often overshadows your own well-being.

How does someone develop this pattern? This isn't to suggest that helping others is wrong; in fact, a secure life jacket equips you to aid others effectively. But some people consistently believe others deserve life jackets more than they do:

  • Childhood criticism taught them to diminish self-love in favour of appeasing critics.
  • They found themselves in situations that bred feelings of worthlessness, colouring their worldview.
  • They garnered praise for aiding others, linking their self-worth to this selflessness.
  • Childhood lessons against selfishness led them to become excessively selfless to gain approval.

Whether labelled "the pleaser," "the helper," or "the giver," these traits have become ingrained, leaving them emotionally depleted.

If you identify with this, consider the following shift:

Imagine a life where you assist others from a lifeboat, wearing multiple life jackets. You're equipped to help, plunge into the sea of life, aid others with their life jackets, and then return to the boat for replenishment – food, rest, and resources.

To recalibrate your pleaser, helper, and giver tendencies, so that you don’t drown in the vast sea of life, follow these five steps:

  1. Say no when your life jacket isn't on, and you're not ready to save.
  2. Accept that you can't rescue everyone, especially those who resist help.
  3. Commit to rescuing yourself first during challenging times.
  4. After a significant effort, allow time to recover before embarking again.
  5. Master the art of saying no, even though it's difficult.

To restore equilibrium between giving and self-care, begin by writing down one self-nurturing action daily. Make it your priority, noting it at the top of your to-do list. At the day's end, reflect on these replenishing activities (putting on your own life jacket first). Give yourself a pat on the back, perhaps words of praise, after all, kindness is two-fold.

Remember, if you find yourself sinking, reach out to others. We're meant to thrive in a community of 30-50 individuals. Although modern life disrupts this model, reach out – there are others willing to guide you in donning your life jacket and navigating the sea of adversity.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 3BN
Written by Nikki Emerton
Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 3BN

I’m Nikki, a recovered perfectionist, still a bit of an over-achiever, slightly introverted lover of running, the outdoors, wild swimming & good food - not all at the same time of course!

I use a several modalities, including coaching, NLP, IEMT, CBT & Somatic work. Helping people achieve positive changes so that they can live life to the fullest.

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