What to do when you don't have the capacity to be there for someone?

What do you do when you don’t feel like you have the capacity to be there for someone at the time (or necessarily even reply) but see someone reaching out online? Even though it might not be directed at me specifically, as a moderator, I feel somewhat responsible to take care that no one feels like nobody cares about them or that they’re being completely ignored if they don’t get any response.


If nothing else, tell them you don’t know what to say, but you hear them and acknowledge their pain. Sometimes being heard can make all the difference in someone’s day.

You owe it to yourself to take care of yourself first. If you don’t take care of yourself, there will come a point where you can’t take care of anyone else either. It is not up to you to fix every person’s problems, so just help out where you can. Are you familiar with the Starfish story?

I think you’ll see that the regulars on here ebb and flow in their activity levels, and that’s okay. I know I do. They are practicing self care and setting healthy boundaries for themselves so they don’t deplete themselves and can offer good counsel when they’re able.


Thank you, I really appreciate your input!

This is definitely something I sometimes forget, or feel like I’m just trying to make up excuses for myself but it’s good to hear it from someone else from time to time.


It’s okay to take care of yourself :slight_smile: you can’t help other people when/if you’re burnt out. Just say you’re there to listen to them, but you’re not sure if you’re able to offer any advice right now. Sometimes just reading/listening to someone vent is more than enough. Offer to be there for them in other ways if you’re close enough - maybe just have a normal friendly conversation with them or spend some time with them somehow and take their mind off of stuff. Send them their favorite music, send them your favorite music. That kinda stuff.


Thank you for the reassurance and perspective. It honestly means the world!


First off, it’s obvious that you care a lot, which is so needed in our world right now. It’s a beautiful spark that you have there, and the most powerful gift you can do to yourself and others is to be thoughtful in the way you take care of it. I commend you for your honesty and asking that question. Kindness is generally well perceived and encouraged, but oftentimes this perception deletes the possibility to talk about the need for growth and learning in that specific area, which is unfortunate. There are realities to face in order to be supportive and make room not only for the person you’re talking to, but also for yourself.

It’s a personal perspective, but I believe it’s not your responsibility nor your job to respond to every person who’d express a need. And even if it’s your work (like “IRL”), even if you are paid for it, there is still a healthy balance to create for yourself. How you define that “balance” is very personal though, and it’s also made to change from time to time. It’s made to change with you*. It comes along with learning to know yourself, to know what drives you in being supportive (and not being afraid to be honest about it), but also to know why you feel responsible to that extent and how you can be at peace with it.

I personally have to be strict with myself sometimes, otherwise I’d keep pouring out on others in a way that would be unhealthy. Because I have my own story and I’m aware that trying to be supportive/feeling responsible doesn’t come from nowhere. The moment I realized that, I was able to start working on myself and even though I made a lot of progress, years after I’m still learning to know myself on this matter. Which is okay. It is a learning process.

In the end, for your question, what matters is to be at peace with your decisions while knowing that taking care of yourself is never a luxury or an option, but a priority. And again, self-care has the definition you want it to be - it’s very personal. So when you know that you don’t have the capacity to be there for someone at the moment… man, that’s a strength! It means you can pause and listen to yourself. You can cherish and honor this capacity that you have of knowing some of your limits.

So, just sharing some personal thoughts:

*If you push yourself beyond your own limits it could be damaging, not only for yourself but also for others. You’d be more on edge, tense, not emotionally available, less patient. And when you respond to someone, that’s not what you want to happen. Respecting your own limits is, somehow, a way to also respect the people you’re talking to. You can still go back to them later, but this time with the energy and mindset that are needed to be supportive and listening.

*At the end of the day, you have to be your first priority and your very own responsibility. First, because you’re only human, you have your own limits and things to handle on your own. Secondly, because there will always be someone who’ll need to be helped, acknowledged, heard while you won’t always be available for X Y Z reason. The need for love and care is human, endless. If being supportive can be a fuel, a motivation, it has to remain an ideal rooted in reality. And the reality is: you can’t be everything for everyone. Which doesn’t make you selfish or guilty of anything. It actually makes you even more responsible in the way you care and show it.

*Acknowledging and listening to your own limits isn’t negative. It’s also a way to open new doors. It’s when you allow collaboration, network, communities to be created and to be effective. It allows a group to operate with a collective strength, made of individuals of course, but still a system that has its own way to be, and where everyone can use their own gifts. There’s something beautiful and powerful in this.

*Just be honest with yourself and others. If you can’t be there for someone but still want to acknowledge them, then just say it. It’s generally better to say something like: “I don’t know what to say/it’s not a good time for me but I care and I wanted to let you know that today”, than trying to have all the answers and not even believing it yourself. It’s a mark of respect, honesty and vulnerability. It’s a way to recognize yourself and the person you’re talking to as being fundamentally humans.

Take care @clearsky. Your heart is beautiful. :hrtlegolove:

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Thank you, I really appreciate your words!

This definitely gave me some food for thought.

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