I may not like a lot of things that have happened in my life. But even some of the worst times have led me to become the person I am now. I wouldn’t be as strong as I am, if I had not been through what I have been through. So, when the question comes up that if you could go back in time and change one thing what would it be, I hesitate to say I would change anything. If I didn’t have that experience, who’s to say some things I’m proud of would have ever happened either?
However, if there were one lesson I could teach my younger self, or one thing I can pass on to another person so they could avoid the kind of mistakes I made, it would be this:
It is NOT selfish to take care of yourself.
A counselor a long time ago used the gas tank analogy. If you keep siphoning off your gas without ever refilling your own tank, eventually you’ll have no gas to give anyone else and both of you will have empty tanks. Another example I hear often is that there is a reason the safety briefing on a plane tells you to put your own air mask on first before helping someone else.
In our society, we’re taught that putting yourself first is selfish; it’s a bad thing. Although it is not gender specific, women often are more susceptible to this because we’re taught to put our families’ needs above our own, especially if you have children.
I am not talking about acting as if the world revolves around you and your needs. “Me, me, me” and “What do I get out of it” without caring about others, that IS selfish. I’m talking about making sure you can help others by seeing to your needs, too. And sometimes that does mean putting yourself first.
Let me give you a couple scenarios.
You don’t eat well or exercise and you have health issues because of that. That means you physically can’t play with your kids/grandkids without getting winded, or go hiking with your significant other without having to stop every few minutes. Or maybe it means you are at a higher risk for a heart attack. What happens to your family when you have one? In that case, then, when you exercise you are doing it not only for you, but also so you can be here for them. (Bonus if you have kids, you’re teaching them how to live a healthy life, too.)
You say yes to every function or committee your church needs people for. Sounds generous, right? Sounds like what you “should” do. But stretching yourself that thin, trying to do that many things, means you get tired, don’t do any of them well, and probably are not giving joyfully. You may even start to resent “having to do it all". Who does that benefit? Wouldn’t it be better, then, to commit to fewer tasks at a time, but doing each one well? And wouldn’t that, in turn, be a bigger benefit to whatever organization you work for or are giving your time to?
It’s time we learn that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be able to take care of anyone else. If we take care of our needs so that we CAN help others in some way, that is far from selfish.
What is one thing you wish you could teach either your younger self or someone else today?