There are times that, as giving and caring individuals, we lose ourselves in trying to make another (or a group of others) happy. It's in these times that we become overwhelmed, we willingly—albeit often subconsciously—submit to being used, and we end up hurt in the end. As always, I'm a big fan of remaining softhearted and generous; however, I'm not a proponent of being taken advantage of or being used.
After careful analysis of these types of situations, I came up with the analogy that, at times, we allow ourselves to be pillows for others. It's never something we set out to do. It's quite the opposite actually. It happens gradually. Typically it begins with someone we care about, someone who needs our tenderhearted approach to life. It begins with an outpouring of gratitude and appreciation for the little things we do, and it's spurred along by how our world lights up when we see them smile. It begins slowly, and before we know it, we're in a cycle of dependence and we're not sure how to get out of it.
It begins with the simplicity of being appreciated, with knowing that what we can offer is needed and valuable. And, somehow, it ends with us being ignored, with us making excuses for why the other person (or other people) are acting as they are. It's time for us to stop allowing ourselves to be used in such a way, but in order to do that, we have to take a look at what it means to be someone's "pillow."
Think about it with me for a second.
What is a pillow? By sheer definition, it is an item used for support, for comfort.
Do you remember your pillow during the day? Do you think of it at all? I suppose you might...(kind of odd, and I would say extremely rare, but it could happen).
When do you think of your pillow? Honest answer: you think of it only when you need it, or when you want it, and it's not there.
I mean, we all love our pillows. They're great! There are things you can only get from your pillow. It's there to provide you with comfort, to help you sleep, to make everything about your bad day better. It fulfills a very real need in your life, and you are always appreciative about a good pillow. You may even tell your friends or family how awesome it is, and when you get a good one (or get really tired), you may think about it once or twice throughout the day. But, the problem lies in the fact that there will never really be a time when your pillow pops into your mind until you need it again. You have no need to give back to a pillow. It's an object, it's there, and you use it when you want or need it.
Once you've used your pillow, you'll move on with your day. You'll focus solely on you. Thoughts about your pillow won't enter your mind, and you won't be bothered with worrying about it at all—unless by some strange set of events, the pillow suddenly isn't there to provide you with what you need. (The pillow is greatly missed when its support is no longer around in a time of need).
Is it starting to click yet?
Haven't we all been that "pillow" for someone? Haven't we let ourselves be used, simply because we needed to be appreciated or simply because we genuinely delighted in making the one using us happy? (That's the worst part. Sometimes, we legitimately loved someone enough to just want their happiness, only to be their pillow). Haven't we realized that our needs were never legitimately considered or even acknowledged by another, yet we were expected to always be on call for their needs?
If so, you've been a pillow. Stop. You are better than that. I am, too. We are not pillows, and we do not deserve to be treated as such. We do not deserve to pour out our support, our time, our energy, our full amount of generosity, only to be discarded as an object whose worth or needs do not matter.
Continue in your nature to give. Be kind, be generous, be loving, be soft. But, no longer allow yourself to be a pillow.