There you are sitting on that flight to LA and the flight attendant starts with the safety instructions. She shows you where the exit doors are, the floating device and finally the oxygen mask. She demonstrates how it works then she says to put it on first and then help those around you. For Fuck’s sake! Why is it we are only demanded to take care of ourselves first when the plane is about to go down?
There is a lot of talk out there about taking care of yourself and making sure there is plenty of self -care in your life. When I was in social work school burnout was a big topic and in my first job out of school my supervisor would remind us to make sure we gave ourselves time to go to the bathroom! That simple – get up from your desk and pee. As a therapist it is my role to help you take better care of yourself so I make it a priority to be a good model for that kind of behavior. I take breaks, workout, good diet, take vacations all outwardly positive things – but the crazy making is in the head – and that voice can be a killer.
I am sure you are doing some good in the world. You are taking care of everything at work, your home, your kids, your partner and this makes you feel good and other people will feel good and like you, may even love you. You get all sorts of outside accolades in doing for others - maybe. There is a wish there and a drive for something. Being acknowledged is a common theme – wanting to be seen for what you’re good at. There is also the flip – not wanting to be seen. So you cause a commotion by helping others and you get lost in the shuffle – well, that shit gets old and you may end up resentful. Ask yourself what you get out of taking care of others and how much of you is being sacrificed, only you have the answer to your “why” it’s something to think about …
Maybe the motivation is guilt. I hear that a lot “if I don’t do all of this I will feel guilty” – Where the does that shit come from? Maybe you feel guilty taking care of yourself when you know someone needs your help. Guilt can drive you right in to becoming a martyr. If you do for everyone around you and sacrifice yourself – in the end it is not so awesome. You’ve avoided feeling guilty but you end up empty.
“Guilt and its handmaiden, shame, can paralyze––or catalyze one into action. Appropriate guilt can function as social glue, spurring one to make reparations for wrongs. Excessive rumination about one's failures, however, is a surefire recipe for resentment and depression” www.psychologytoday.com.
If putting your needs first is not your natural course of action then it will take some practice. Guilt may be one of the feelings you may have to overcome. It will take some time. The new feelings will help you to feel whole. it’s like planting a rose bush, for those seeds to turn to a gorgeous bouquet of flowers there will need to be some pruning, wateringand nurturing. Its going to take a minute for the seeds to take root and eventually with time and repetition it will grow.
The take away is to find a balance and patience. You will have to take care of other stuff. Putting your needs first just means that you will be able to be present and available when you are doing for others. You will feel whole and unburdened by the task at hand. You will feel fulfilled and in the balance it will be your most authentic self that is taking care of that task or person. Your reason for doing it will not be for the accolades or avoiding the guilt it will just be because…
Go on girl and put on that oxygen mask and take a deep breath – you earned it
See you next week