Having a big heart is a blessing. You’re in touch with your emotions and tend to feel them deeply. You’re kind and generous. And you enjoy helping others in times of need.
What a wonderful gift it is to be naturally inclined towards generosity and caring, and to be a beacon of open-heartedness for others.
But having a big heart comes with its challenges that can lead to unnecessary pain and sorrow. At times you may suffer from being taken for granted. You might become overwhelmed by the problems and needs of others. And your feelings can get hurt easily.
Here are ways to protect your big heart from pain and sorrow so you can share yourself with ease.
1. Fill your own cup first.
Having a big heart means that you revel in giving of yourself — your time, attention, and other resources. You’re at the ready for any friend who’s in trouble and needs a helping hand. You think nothing of dropping everything you’re doing to rush to the aid of someone in crisis.
Your generosity and caring are beautiful qualities. But if you’re experiencing burn-out, overwhelm, or even resentment, then your generosity is likely out of balance.
Imagine that your heart is a beautiful gold goblet, filled to the brim with the essence of your big-hearted generosity. If you keep giving away the contents of the cup, you’ll have nothing left to feed and sustain you.
It’s just as the airlines say: put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others. (What good are you to others if you’re not breathing?!) Learn to fill and sustain your cup first before sharing with others.
Your generosity must begin at home, with you being generous with yourself first. That means honoring your time, your attention, your money, and your love as the precious natural resources that they are. Devote your attention to your own needs and dreams. Safe-guard and prioritize the use of your time and money.
Fill your cup first–be generous with yourself first–so you can function at your highest capacity. Only then (and not before) will you be able to extend your generosity with others in a way that is balanced and sustainable.
2. Practice discernment & healthy boundaries.
If you have a big heart, you probably enjoy seeing the best in people. You give people the benefit of the doubt. And you usually let people have second, third, and fourth chances, even when they don’t deserve it.
It’s not uncommon for people with less honorable intentions to take advantage of your good nature. They may exploit you and cause tremendous suffering. Even still, you may have a hard time believing that some people aren’t as well-intentioned as you are.
When you understand that not everyone is like you, you empower yourself to be in the present moment and to ask yourself what feels aligned. You empower yourself to discern when to say “yes” and when to say “no.”
You can still be generous in the way you see others while having clear boundaries. The cleaner your boundaries are, the more effective you can be in sharing your big heart with those who can genuinely receive it.
3. Feel your feelings. (Don’t fall into them.)
Having a big heart means that you might tend to experience your emotions with high intensity. You might even identify with and be consumed by your feelings. To protect your heart, feel your feelings without falling into them.
As you’re experiencing your feelings, remember that emotions are information delivered to you through the body. You can have a feeling without falling into it or becoming it.
For example, you can notice anger flowing through your body. You can receive the information that it is delivering to you, without becoming the anger itself.
When you give your feelings space to flow without identifying with them, you build emotional strength and stability.
4. Practice good emotional hygiene.
When it comes to having a big heart, good emotional hygiene means not taking on the emotions of others. It involves identifying your own emotions as separate from the feelings of those around you, and allowing others to process their own emotions for themselves.
It’s not uncommon for people having a big heart to confuse caring genuinely about someone with taking on the responsibility for that person’s feelings. Although this may seem like a kind thing to do, in truth, it disempowers the other.
Recognize that you’re not responsible for feeling the grief and sorrow of others. Acknowledge that you can feel compassion and empathy for those in pain and need, while allowing them to have and own their experience.
5. Let the giving be the gift.
Having a big heart, you get great joy from expressing kindness and generosity. However, sometimes you might feel hurt when your giving is not returned. After all, you’re acutely aware of when someone gives to you, and you enjoy reciprocating.
These moments where your generosity is not reciprocated are tremendous opportunities to embody the essence of giving: it is in the giving that you receive the gift. This is kindness for the sake of kindness. You tap into the joy of being kind, and that is the gift you offer yourself: the experience of being kind.
And in having a big heart–in being kind without expecting anything in return–others are free to show up however they’re showing up in the moment. What greater gift is there than that?
Having a big heart is a gift. When you learn how to protect your big heart, you’re able to expand your capacity to give and receive love in a sustaining way.