“It seems that when some people talk of compassion, they have the notion that it entails a total disregard or even a sacrificing of one’s own interests. This is not the case. In fact, genuine love should first be directed at oneself – if we do not love ourselves, how can we love others?” – The Dalai LamaSometimes I feel like I don’t have a right to take care of myself. Sometimes I feel like everyone else’s needs are more important than mine, should come before mine. Sometimes I feel like it’s more important to keep my boss happy than it is to keep me happy.
What ends up happening is I run myself ragged trying to do for others, sacrificing myself for others, and then I get knocked flat by an illness. I wear myself out to such a degree I’m forced to take care of myself because my body demands it. And if I do take care of myself? If I do stroll into work half an hour late because I’m so tired I can barely stand? Well then I feel guilty. “I should be at work! I shouldn’t be sleeping in like this! My boss won’t like it! He might fire me!”
My guilty feelings probably stem from fear. From fear if I don’t keep everyone else happy something bad will happen. If I don’t keep my boss happy he’ll fire me. If I don’t support my friend she’ll drop me. But I don’t live in a fear-based world anymore. If those things happen the relationships probably weren’t for my highest good anyway. This is not to say I advocate becoming completely selfish and self-centered – because I don’t. I’m advocating balance and compromise. Balancing my needs with the needs of those around me. Of finding a win-win solution. Because if I continue to subjugate my needs it leads to illness and resentment and that’s not good for anybody.
In writing this post I’m not chastising myself so much as re-prioritizing. As the Dalai Lama says, “If we do not love ourselves, how can we love others?” If we do not take care of ourselves, how can we take care of others? I’m finally recognizing I deserve to take care of myself. I deserve to make myself priority numero uno, even if that means making other people unhappy. Even if it means ruffling a few feathers. I don’t intend to upset my boss by coming in late or leaving early, but if I do, that’s really ok. I come first. My job is just a job. It’s not my sole reason for living. That’s not to say I’m ungrateful for my job or disregard it, but it’s time to strike a balance.
I dream of a world where we all take care of ourselves. Where we balance our needs with the needs of those around us. Where we know it’s safe to take care of ourselves and not only that but we know we deserve it. A world where we understand self-love also means lovingly taking care of the self. A world where we understand when we take care of ourselves only then can we take care of others.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.