Studies on a Heart of Gold

Heart of Gold
Mixed media on canvas paper
11 x 14″
©2020 Louise Gallagher

They say she had a heart of gold. That she always put others first. Never said no to a friend. Was always the first one you’d call in a crisis.

And then one day, her heart quit beating. Stopped. She fell and had to learn to get back up without straining her heart with the needs of others. 

She had to find the balance between needing to be there for others and needing to be there for herself. 

She had to learn how to say ‘yes’ to herself by saying ‘no’ to others first.

We extoll the virtues of the ones who are always there. Who turn up in every kind of weather, in spite of the hardships to get there, their own pain and suffering, the circumstances of their lives and the many demands they must put aside to turn up for others.

And yet…. where is the self-compassion in always putting your own needs aside to run and help another? Where is the self-compassion in putting yourself last?

Being able to say yes to yourself by saying no, to set loving boundaries, to be clear on when you can help and when you can’t, when you can turn up and when it’s just not possible, are essential building blocks of owning your own voice, of hearing your heart’s song and creating a life worth living.

Yes, it’s important to help others, to be there for them in times of need — as long as being there isn’t a habit that undermines your well-being because ‘being there for others’ means you are tearing apart your peace of mind, increasing an already precarious stress-load or wreaking havoc on your primary relationships.

We all want to feel needed. To be there for our friends. To be someone others can count on when the chips are down.

But, when we consistently put our own needs last, when we constantly turn up for others even when to do so means having to let go of our own priorities and needs or let down people we love, the question we have to ask ourselves is… In turning up for others where am I not turning up for me?

I went back into the painting I shared yesterday and delved deeper into the story it ignites in my heart.

The message that became loud and clear as I painted was one I keep returning to again and again:

Listen to your heart.

In a world filled with distractions, demands and disruptions, it can feel challenging to find the balance between ‘yes’ and ‘no’. It can be hard to hear our hearts calling us to rest, to let go of worry and obligations and simply be present. It can be easy to forget to stop and breathe.

Just for this moment….

Stop…Close your eyes…



In… Out… In… Out…

Now again.



In… Out… In… Out…

Feel. The air entering your body.

Feel. Your breath flowing in your veins.

Feel. Your lungs expanding/contracting, expanding/contracting.

Feel it all. Be present in it and with it.


And breathe.

Now… whisper to your heart, “Yes. Yes. Yes!. I hear you.”



13 thoughts on “Studies on a Heart of Gold

  1. Pingback: Studies on a Heart of Gold – Poetic Justice

  2. Your painting is s beautiful, Louise. So is your poem.
    To always give first to others and never say yes to your own needs is
    a rare event. I have come across some women who seem to always give out from a loving heart. They look happy 😊. Maybe we don’t know the secret coping mechanism.


    Liked by 1 person

    • I think one of the challenges of giving and giving – without stopping to replenish ourselves, is we become resentful. I think the secret coping mechanism (love that phrase) is the loving heart you mention that begins with self-love – Thank you for your kind words Miriam. Many hugs.


  3. We only learn through our own experiences. Saying NO to continually helping is one of the hardest steps to take. It hurts but in the end the one saying NO wins. In most instances someone else does step in to help. One cannot be the saviour of all. One needs to look after themselves in order to properly help those they feel they have the strength to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

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