Putting The Oxygen Mask On Yourself First
Everyone is well aware of the importance of filling your own cup first or you will end up with nothing to give to others. Yet for some reason, something holds you back from taking care of your own basic needs.
“What would people think of me?” I ask myself. Am I afraid people will start to dislike me and will I lose the love and connection I have with people?
The reality is people will judge you left and right. Those who truly love you will continue to stick by your side no matter what. Is it difficult? Yes. It may be difficult for them to understand at first what is going on but they will adjust to the new you. Growing up I was taught to put others first. Truth is, when this is practiced continually it becomes a habit to negate your own personal needs. Unconsciously this implies that your needs and wants are not as important as others, which can lead us to believe we are not worthy. When you neglect your needs you can begin to feel resentful and depressed.
When we are preoccupied by a drive to be productive or helpful, it’s valuable to look at what’s pushing us. Are we doing what we do because it makes us or the people we care about happy? Or are we driven by something else? Many of us have an inner critic that tells us we have to achieve certain objectives to be acceptable or worthy. Socially and personally. This particular harsh internal coach tends to attack me from all angles and reinforce the idea that anything I do for myself is selfish. When we’re listening to this voice, it’s easy to lose track of what’s really going on around us. Are we living our lives the way we want? Are we really doing justice to the people around us by being present and feeling good? This little inner voice may seem so insignificant but it is such a critical element and a huge distraction that affects our mood and behavior, and it can often be at the helm of an unrealistic desire to be “perfect” and always put others first.
Personally, it has taken me roughly 25 years of my life to realize that self-care means honoring your body, mind and spirit. Making it a priority to take care of your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs. It’s not feeling guilty or selfish for taking time out to recharge my battery and take care of my basic needs.
You know the feeling you get when something isn’t right or something is off? That’s your call to action to get in touch with yourself. To follow your nudges and listen to what your body and mind need and act accordingly to find balance in life again. Spend some time alone away from the social distractions and noise so that you can listen to your own thoughts and voice. What’s really important?
I often find myself losing touch with the grand passions and tiny quirks that make me who I am, thus diminishing the quality of my life. We live in a culture where it’s been drilled into us that bigger is better, where a lifestyle is created and based on looking good instead of feeling good – wealth over health. I am here learning. Learning how to nourish myself, that is the highest return on investment I can ever make – a far greater investment than any expensive watch or sports car I could ever own. So move forward.
And there’s nothing that makes moving forward easy. There is no magic pill that dissolves the guilt you feel – misplaced as it is – when you do something solely for yourself. This is the crux of the issue though. Until you accept that there is nothing wrong with putting your needs first then nothing ever changes.
We don’t need permission to take. We don’t need permission to receive. It’s there for us to take. We are no more or less deserving than anyone else in our world. And I promise you this: until you learn to give to yourself first, then you will constantly be depleting yourself. You will leach and leak and you will be left lacking.
My failure to stop and check in with myself and make time for the things that are meaningful to me has increased my stress. Mine before yours. Journaling is one of the few things that relives my stress. Expressive writing, which is when you write about a traumatic or stressful event to try and better understand the emotions associated with it, as well as try and make sense and meaning of whatever happened, has been found to be an effective method. My ability to put on paper the things that I do is by far the easiest way for me to catch my breath. So here I am, finding the oxygen mask yet again — and yes, putting it on myself first.