In today’s society where many people are taught to put others’ needs before their own, to not be ‘selfish’, and to consider the exterior environment instead of looking internally, it is easy to see how the message of “self” may have gotten lost in translation for many people. I don’t think there is as much selfishness in the world as we tend to think there is; because, much of what we identify as selfish is really just self-focus, which is not the same thing as selfishness.
With the pressures to conform to other peoples’ ideals, to fit inside the standard box that we have been told we all need to use, it is easy to see how the waters get muddied and why we may assume that any focus on self is a bad thing. But, what happens if there is no happy medium, no balance? Too much focus on others means we lose sight of our personal goals and we lose the motivation we need to live a fulfilling life on our own terms, and to positively contribute to society in a way that matters to us. It also means we become unhealthy, because we are not taking care of ourselves.
It is said that if we don’t take care of ourselves, we cannot possibly take care of anyone else, and I think this is true. But, what does it actually mean to take care of ourselves? It can mean different things to different people, but what it comes down to is positivity. Do we have the tools we need to do what we need to do? Do we feel fulfilled in our lives? Do we wake up energized, or can we reclaim our energy fairly soon after getting up? Do we feel valued in the relationships we have on a daily basis? If the answers tend to be ‘no’ then it could mean we are not focusing enough on ourselves.
One way to do this is to first and foremost, get to know ourselves. I think we can get so focused on other people that we forget to really get to know ourselves. This is important because, when we know ourselves really well, we not only learn what we want out of life, but we also can identify when something feels ‘off’. What do we do when this happens? We make sure we have a lot of self-care tools in our toolbox. For instance, I know that when I start to feel ‘off’, the first thing that happens is I experience muscle rigidity and headaches. I know that this means I need to relieve some pressure, and the best way for me to do this is to laugh – that is my go-to coping tool that almost always works. I’ll watch some comedies on television, or silly You Tube videos, and I feel better almost right away. Sometimes I need sleep. Sometimes I need exercise.
The point is, in a world of connection with other people, we sometimes have to focus on ourselves to make the world a better place. I think we misunderstand what it means to be part of a community – because a community is essentially a group of INDIVIDUALS living together in roughly the same space. This means that we are first and foremost, individuals. The needs of the group are important, yes. But if we do not first care for ourselves the community will fall apart. So, if you really care about others, then please make yourself a priority. I think if most people concentrated more on self, our communities would be much stronger than they are today.