Doesn’t that title sound selfish? In fact, it goes against everything we’ve been taught since we were children. All our lives we have been told to put others first and most of us do!
But the danger of being overzealous with the “Live to Serve” motto is you become a doormat. People walk all over you because they know you will give way and serve their selfish demands and whims. You risk being exploited, unappreciated and put upon, even abused.
On the other side of the spectrum, you’ve got people who live to serve themselves. Their wishes come first and anyone who stands in their way be damned. Manipulation is to be expected because as long as it helps them achieve their goals, everything and everyone is fair game.
Life is not black and white. Your choices are not limited to either being a doormat or a manipulative schmuck. I’ve been on a winded path in my personal journey. From being a doormat in my childhood, to diving into “me me me” territory in my youth; I’ve finally soft-landed in the experimental “put myself first” launch pad.
This is My World
The world does not revolve around you, but imagine for a second that it does. Imagine that every decision you make, every action you take, every word you say can have a potentially catastrophic impact on the lives of all 7.8 billion people on this planet. What would you change?
As individuals, we might not have influence over 7.8 billion people, but we can affect more people than we think. If you were paying attention in school and know what a Venn Diagram is, imagine that. You are the centre of your universe, but your boundaries overlap with the universe of other people. What you do in your own little bubble, can impact the lives of others.
“Hold on,” you must be thinking, “doesn’t that mean we should put others first?”
I don’t think so. I believe that sorting yourself out is the best way to take care of others living in or even on the fringes of your universe.
But what does it mean to put myself first?
Putting yourself first means making sure you are in a good place physically, mentally and financially. It differs for each person. But this is the order it goes for me.
My top priority is ensuring I am in good mental health. I have been struggling with anxiety for the past few years years and I am very aware that when I’m in a slump, I do not live up to my standards of being a good daughter, sister, partner and friend. Yes, my standards.
The only way you should be judging yourself is by your own standards. At the end of the day, does it really matter what your second aunt twice removed said about your exam scores? I didn’t think so.
While it might be next to impossible to be in a tip top mental state every day, loving yourself enough to be aware that you are slipping or that you have slipped and fallen is invaluable to your recovery. You can only try to fix what is broken when you are brave enough to acknowledge it is broken.
When you are back to feeling your normal self, you will find that the strength to be kind comes effortlessly. When you are happy, you radiate joy and automatically become a better child, sibling, lover and friend, or at the very least, less of a grump.
While I have given up hopes of ever being ripped (I just don’t have the discipline for that), I still try to have an active lifestyle. Over the Coronavirus lockdown, I challenged myself to learn how to do a pushup. Small goal, but it kept me moving everyday, even if only for a few minutes.
Exercising releases a chemical called Endorphins that basically makes you happy. And since being in a good place mentally is the priority for me, I try to do something everyday just to get that happy feeling. It makes me feel better about myself even when nothing is going right, and a little bit of “You’re alright” can go a long way when you’re in a slump.
Ensuring you are in good health also means you can be there for a friend or a parent when you’re needed. If you’ve ever experienced a loved one falling ill, you’ll know how much strain that can be on the caregivers. That stress is not just a mental burden, but can also be a financial one. Which brings me onto the 3rd point…
Working to put yourself in a financially secure place is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Putting yourself first financially could mean rejecting social gatherings and opting to cook dinner, or talking yourself out of splurging on a Nintendo Switch just to play Animal Crossing.
Everyone has a different motivation for being financially secure. You need to find your “why” and stick to it. Once you’ve identified your “why”, it will motivate you to keep as tight a ship as you can when it comes to your finances.
By putting your financial stability first, you ensure that you will be able to help others one day.
Finally, imagine you are flying on an airplane that’s in trouble. Your elderly father is on your left and your young daughter is on your right. They are both completely dependent on you. You are the centre of their universes. The oxygen masks have dropped. If you choose to save either one first, you risk blacking out and losing the ability to help anyone. But if you pull on your own oxygen mask first, your dependents might be slightly disoriented, but all 3 of you will survive.
Always pull on your own oxygen mask first. Only by loving yourself, can you love others.
Previously published on medium
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Photo credit: Pixabay