It took me 35 years to figure this out.
I’m an avid traveler and I’ve heard it a thousand times, secure your own oxygen mask before helping others. Why? Because if you don’t take care of yourself first, you have nothing to give to others.
But merely hearing about this concept was not enough for me. I was someone who thrived on overextending myself to help anyone who asked for it. Being everything to everyone from my boss to my husband to my best friend to my parents and my neighbor and my business partner, the list goes on and on. I would do anything for any of these people, at my own expense. I gained a great deal of significance about being so “important” to the people in my life and giving so much to them.
One day someone asked me, “Is anyone in your life really getting the full version of who you are, or getting the best you have to offer?” The answer was no. My cup was so empty, I was giving nothing to myself, and not much more to anyone else in my life. When asked what I could do to take care of myself first, to fill up my cup, I actually had to ask for a list of examples. These habits were so ingrained in my lifestyle that I didn’t even know where to begin.
I had to make a list of ways I could take time for myself, and then actually schedule them on my planner, and be held accountable for doing two things every week. At first, it felt so selfish, I almost couldn’t enjoy myself.
I’ve been putting myself first for 2 years now and I only wish I had started sooner! Firstly, I found that taking time for myself allowed me to reconnect with me. I discovered what was important to me, what I valued and cared most about. My reserves eventually became replenished and my life was more vibrant, authentic, and joyful. And all of this spilled over to the relationships in my life. I can now give more quality time and energy to the people I care about. And my relationships now are about giving love and expecting nothing in return. The driving force is to give and to love, not about gaining significance by rescuing someone or being their hero or impressing them. It’s a much more healthy, fulfilling and enjoyable situation for everyone involved :).
We all must stop, take time to ourselves, and reflect from time to time, in order to be our best selves and to contribute in the highest way to the people most important in our lives.
Perhaps you’ve heard it a thousand times too, but it’s a good way to think about how important it is to take care of yourself first-
Put on your own oxygen mask first so that you are able to help others.
Kristen Sargent, WHEN MEMBER of Career, Being, & Health