Yesterday I was having lunch with a friend and she was talking about how she is overworked at her job. She has been working 6 days a week for months now and is feeling the strain in her body. Here is the deal, although there must be some kind of pay off it is not financial and she is not trying to advance in her job. So why then? Only she can answer that, but it got me to thinking…..
“self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.”
― Elizabeth Cady Stanton
My response to her it that I will not do for my job. Maybe a different job at a different time, but not this one. I am clear on my boundaries with my job and I am comfortable with how clean my side of the street is. But that is just my employment and there is a whole bunch more to my life. And I do get sucked in. And why is that? I guess it changes according to the situation. In a crisis I step up, no question about that, especially when it is my family. I will set aside my life to help them. If my son called I would set this aside, jump in my truck and go. That is a given. But I will reclaim my life as soon as possible.
Right now my grandmother is in a convalescent home. She is improving and right now they say she is going home this week. I know she would like me to be there every day visiting her. Not going to happen. She has visitors every day, it does not have to be me. I love my grandmother so much, but my life is important too. And I get to take care of myself also. I think it took me being in my fifties before I could say that comfortably.
Before that I was all about self sacrifice. I stayed in a marriage too long thinking It was better for him and my son (wrong by the way). I would become over involved in my employment only to see at the end of the day I didn’t own the businesses and everyone can be replaced. I hung on to friendships past their expiration date thinking I could save something that was over. Even over involvement in volunteering or community becomes draining, stealing the joy from the original intention. Men, on my gosh, I gave up my life, making theirs the focal point of our relationships. The list goes on….. If I just loved more, worked harder, gave everything, well then I would be important, I would be loved, appreciated, no one would leave me. It didn’t really work out that way. And now I have learned some lessons from that.
At the end of the day no one can bring me happiness beyond myself. Loving and caring for myself must be first on my list. To move through life with a full heart, means I have to fill it. And this is not easy. It is almost a reflex to say “yes”. It is how I was raised. My impulse is to set myself aside and take care of you. But is that what is best for me, and in the end you, perhaps not. So I need to be mindful of when and why I say yes. I need to listen to my body and my heart when it starts saying no. I need to be okay with putting myself first. And that means unlearning behavior that is years ingrained. Loving myself needs to be a daily practice.
Yes, if you love me, that can make me feel good. But if you love me and I don’t love myself, I won’t believe you. I won’t trust that love. Because how could you love what I believe to be unlovable? When I do not value myself what value can you put on me? If I am so willing to set aside my wants, desires, dreams, time and energy why would you respect them? I want to engage with those people who have a healthy self respect for themselves and their lives. I want them to love themselves so I can love them back. Please don’t sacrifice yourself for me, I cannot carry the weight of both of our lives.
This is not about those times when I need help or you need help. Those are teaching moments in our lives. Those are moments that give us connection and a sense of belonging outside of ourselves. Those are times when we can almost touch love. It becomes tangible. But to do that without resentment or expecting a return we have to come from a place of love. And love starts within. It all comes back to loving yourself. To loving yourself so much you have love to give others. You have filled your time and spent your energy so well, you have it to share.
So it is not selfish to say “I love myself first”. It is not wrong to be wise with your time and your energy. It is okay to say no when something is draining you, taking more than you have to give. You can put yourself first. This is your day, this is your life. You get to choose how you spend, where you spend and who you spend it with. Life moves fast and time is precious. Be sure to have time well spent. And spend that time loving yourself.
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