One of the most difficult lessons I have ever had to learn is the importance of taking care of myself first. To be honest, it is a lesson I still struggle with almost daily. That concept seems so counterintuitive. We live in a society that prides itself on giving to others, doing for others, sacrificing for others, and serving others. Through messages at home, at school, via religion, and in the media we are clearly expected to give of ourselves before we do for ourselves. In fact we are taught that do or be otherwise is selfish.
What I learned over the past few years is that the reality of how things work in the universe is actually quite contrary to that societal truth we have been taught practically since birth. The reality is if we don’t take the time to care for ourselves first, we cannot provide for others. It’s just not possible. Oh we try…because society has taught us that is the way it should be, but we continually fail…if not right away, eventually.
Think of yourself as a battery. Eventually there’s no charge left in the battery if it is not put on the charger. If we would regularly recharge the battery it would never die. The same is true for us. If we keep going, giving to others, helping and serving others while never recharging our own batteries, never caring for ourselves, we will eventually “die”…there will be nothing left to give…we can become irritable, lose our tempers, or respond to those around us in any of a number of other negative ways. And these responses are not well received…its not normal for us to behave in such a way…the expectation is that we keep giving as we always have. So you have your “moment” (call it a freak out, a break down, a temper tantrum, or whatever you want to call it), then you go right back to giving and serving, never really recharging yourself…and thus the cycle continues. Is it any wonder why so many of people are stressed, on medications for depression or anxiety, and/or just plain miserable much of the time?
Instead, if we just took a little time to regularly recharge ourselves we could continue to give and serve others…likely even more than we do now. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but that recharging is essential. It will look different for each of us…for some it may be going to a yoga class, going for a run, taking some quiet time to read a book, taking a nap, heading to the spa for a massage, or maybe spending time with a loved one. Regardless of what recharges your batteries, it is imperative you take a little time to do those things.
The bottom line is you can’t help or serve others if you are not cared for yourself. It’s not selfish, contrary to what society tells us, it is necessary. So be kind and gentle to yourself. Show yourself some love and compassion. As Buddha said, “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Care for yourself so that you can continue to care for others.