I just realized something very important. There is a subtle and immensely significant difference between putting someone else’s needs above your own and doing so with their desires.
We can’t always trust that what they tell us they need is accurate, and in fact they probably rarely actually have conscious awareness of what they need. Moreover, what they need is often uncomfortable or even painful for them. This is why it’s so easy to fall into indulgent, enabling dynamics with others: we convince ourselves that we are putting their needs above our own, when really we’re placing their comfort above all else.
Indirectly we are also placating ourselves, as we don’t have to face the guilt, fear, anxiety, and other uncomfortable feelings that arise as we guide those we care about towards situations they’d rather avoid. So everyone is comfortable, and no one is growing.
So those dear to me may need to process something by talking it out; they may need companionship. That doesn’t mean it needs to be with me. Also, it could just be something they want, and they may need me to tell them I don’t have time for them so that they face their discomfort. Alone. And discover their ability to do so. After all, it is in the very same way that I learned how to deal with things on my own: people didn’t have time for me.
Of course, there are myriad other ways this could manifest, so it’s not like I can follow some kind of formula; but I have become intuitively uncomfortable with being comfortable, with doing what’s easy. Easy isn’t challenging. Without challenge, there is no real change. Since it is definitely a challenge for me to say I don’t have time for someone, I know it’s fuel for growth.