This week has been a timely reminder for me to help myself before I help others, a concept I am still working on in my life.
The word selfish brings negative connotations as someone who always puts their needs and wants before others. That’s not what I’m saying. A long time ago, a wise woman planted a seed of an idea in my mind. The idea of being self-full.
Imagine a cup, a beautiful chalice that you fill with your energy. Every day you only have so much to pour out of the cup. And every night when you sleep, the energy in the cup magically refills.
There’s only so much time and energy that any person has to do the things they want to do. Sometimes that looks like playing video games, sometimes that looks like creating a blog post, sometimes that looks like learning to play the ukelele. None of these things are necessarily more or less important, but often they get pushed to the side so we can give our time and energy to other things.
Unfortunately, sometimes we give out more of our chalice to others than we mean to, or than we want to. This can be in the form of taking on extra work, chores or commitments. These aren’t necessarily bad things, but if left unchecked we can become resentful and eventually burn out. And then, we genuinely can’t help anyone.
As we get older and more mature, it seems like many of the things holding us back are the necessary parts of being a functional adult. We stay stuck in our routines, our jobs, even relationships because they keep us comfortable. What we don’t see is that they can also build a network of excuses that keeps us playing small and holding us back from achieving what our hearts really desire.
For a long time, I believed that working = money = the ability to provide a roof over of my head and food in my belly. It seemed pretty obvious that working a 9-5 or was a necessary evil. I say evil because I was really just pouring in all my energy in return for a paycheck so that I could continue to pay to live.
I poured out the remaining dregs of my chalice into my relationships, thinking they would love me more and I would surely be happier. After all, humans are social animals by design. Oh, how wrong I was.
In my opinion, these are usually the two most time-demanding areas of life. But if all of our time and energy is poured into these areas, how do we get more?
Start by admitting that you are human. You can not bend time, nor the words or actions of another. You have only 24 hours in a day and once they are spent, they will be gone forever.
Next, look at what is possible. You have 24 whole hours in a day, and you get to choose how you spend them! Really! If your job is making you miserable and it drains your energy and feels like it is sucking out your soul, then quit. You have a choice to stay or leave, and if you choose to stay then you can also choose to look for the good and positive parts of your day.
If you are in a relationship with someone- romantic, friend, family member- and it doesn’t make you feel good, then speak up. Tell them that you don’t like it when they treat you like this, or you don’t feel comfortable when they behave in a certain way. If there is anyone in your life who dulls your shine and isn’t even willing to have a conversation with you about how and why and what can be done instead, then they simply don’t deserve to see it, so you can go ahead and take your glorious little self elsewhere and not feel guilty about it.
When you truly believe on a head and a heart level that you deserve to keep your cup full for yourself, you can begin to say no to the things you don’t want and yes to the things you do want. Little by little, you can stop pouring out your chalice for others and keep it full for yourself. When it is overflowing, other people and demands can come into your life, but only when you feel self-full.
By caring for yourself first, you are actively preventing burnout. If you burn out, you can’t help anyone. The more time you make for random acts of kindness, the more you will begin to see the benefits in every area of your life.