I can imagine many people will cringe when they read this. How selfish. How ungrateful. But I will never be able to understand how looking after ourselves can be selfish. If anything, it is an essential requirement to be able to take care of others, right? To be well enough to give to other people?
Right, but many people feel this is wrong. I sometimes find myself thinking, or rather feeling it, too. Because we grow up to think it is worthy to be of service to others, to help them, to sacrifice and to submit ourselves to the benefit of the people in our lives.
First of all, it is sad to think that those concepts are all put together (service, help, sacrifice and submission), because they are different things and they should not be equated.
I genuinely think that being of service is one of the purposes of human existence, and that all of us are here to serve others through the exploration and development of our gifts and talents. But serving others does not mean being subject to other people’s every whim.
We help people when we are in a position to do so, not one of superiority, but one of ability. Perhaps I can lend some money to a friend in need, or pick up some groceries for an elderly person, or listen to someone in trouble and perhaps give my take on the situation. I collaborate with that human being out of love, and compassion.
We had talked about sacrifice before. Sacrifice means to make something sacred. And I love the real meaning of sacrifice, because this is also done through love. You give up something you care about for something much bigger, or for love. This is what parents do for their children, perhaps giving up freedom or financial possibilities, to construct the present and future of another human being.
Sacrifice is misunderstood as something negative. In our culture, the word was a terrible connotation, and many people will tell you NOT to sacrifice anything, that you shouldn’t sacrifice anything. But I think that’s wrong. Many sacrifices are worthy, and we make sacrifices all the time. If you want to express it in another way, we pay prices all the time.
If you decide to study say, medicine, there is a price you will have to pay, in sleepless hours, hard work, the sorrow of losing a patient, etc. But does this make it any less worthy? The same happens if you are in a relationship. You do pay a price, too. You are with this person and it might mean to you, for example, that you are not going to be seeing any other people. If you love your partner, it’s a worthy price to pay, isn’t it?
However, I think that sacrifice is frequently confused with submitting yourself to other people’s wills and schedules, to place yourself in a position of complete surrender to the needs of others, regardless of what they might be, or how absurd, or how destructive.
And this is where we need to start placing healthy boundaries around ourselves, our souls and our energy. There is only so much you can give without depleting your own reserves, and even if you don’t want to hear it, you need part of those reserves for yourself. You cannot give everything to others, or sooner or later you will end up with nothing.
And you will start feeling resentful, and angry, used, despaired. And you will keep giving, and moving, and looking after others because you know no other way, but it will come out of habit, out of a distorted sense of obligation and maybe also a little out of a fear of change.
Giving yourself or from yourself is a wonderful thing to do. That is what will make this world get better each time. But this can only happen if you look after yourself, if you cherish yourself and give yourself what you need.
It is all very well if you want to make others happy or have a better quality of life, but it is also extremely important to lead by example. Helping others doesn’t need to leave you feeling like rubbish, it doesn’t need to deplete you or destroy you.
And that is why you have to make yourself your own first priority. What do you need? What dreams can you build up for yourself? If you have, for example, helped others build their dreams, why shouldn’t you construct your own? Perhaps asking for other people’s help? I don’t believe there should be a divide between helpers and the helped. We all need help at some points, and we can all help others when necessary.
You don’t always need to be strong. You don’t always need to have all the answers. You can share your dreams with people who love you, who will empower you in your dreams and decisions, who will open their arms and support you.
But first you have to be brave enough and share your dreams with yourself. You need to empower yourself in your dreams and embrace yourself first. And this is not selfishness. It is a way of bringing brighter colours to this world. If you are happy, you show others how to be happy too.