In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.
Each time you fly you hear some version of those instructions. We all understand how important it is in that crisis situation to put our own well-being first in order to be able to better assist others. We have to be reminded of this because most of us have heard all our lives that putting yourself first is selfish. Being self-centered is frowned up in our society. But in the context of a plane losing oxygen, it makes complete sense to take care of your own needs first so that you are able to better care for the needs of others. In that situation no one thinks it is selfish to do so.
What would it feel like to give yourself permission to do this in everyday life? What if you gave yourself permission to do what is best for you before attending to others? Does this feel selfish to you? For many years I believed the key to JOY was Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last. I did my best to always put myself last. Everyone and everything came before me. Everyone else’s needs were met before my own. While this sounds noble and admirable, it isn’t. It is foolish, unhealthy, and dangerous. My needs were never met because there was no time, energy, or resources left for me. I was the one on the airplane gasping for breath and passing out as I struggled to put the oxygen mask on others before myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that you quit caring for anyone but yourself. What I am saying is that doing what is best for you empowers you with the energy, space, and desire to help others. You’re not being selfish, you’re being self-responsible.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. in her Huffington Post article beautifully explains the difference between being selfish and self-responsible.
You are being selfish when...
You expect others to give themselves up for you.
You make others responsible for taking care of your feelings of pain and joy.
You get angry at others for doing what they want to do rather than doing what you want them to do.
You consistently make your own feelings, wants, needs and desires important without also considering others feelings, wants, needs and desires.
You believe you are entitled to special treatment, such as not having to wait in line.
You are being self-responsible when...
You take care of your own feelings, wants, desires and needs rather than expecting others to take care of you.
You support others in doing what brings them joy, even when they are not doing what you want them to do.
You show caring toward others for the joy it gives you rather than out of fear, obligation or guilt.
You have the courage to take loving action on your own behalf, even if someone gets angry with you. For example, you go to bed early because you are tired, even if your partner gets angry at you for not watching a movie with him or her.
You have the courage to speak your truth about what you will or will not do, and what you do or do not feel, rather than give yourself up to avoid criticism, anger or rejection.
What would it feel like to do what’s best for you in your career? Your family? Your relationships? Your interests? Your schedule? How would this enable you to better care for others?
I challenge you to do this exercise:
Make a list of the parts of your life you’ve neglected.
Write down a brief statement of how you’d like them to be different than they currently are.
List the first steps of how you can begin doing what’s best for you in these areas.
Write yourself a permission slip that clearly states that you are giving yourself permission do what’s best for you.
Sign it and review it daily.
I'd love to hear from you. Let me know how this works for you!
Joel Barrett Joel Speaks Out LGBTQ Writer, Speaker, Gatherer