Originally published in Skin Deep.
In life, it is encouraged to think of others first. It is seen as a virtue to selflessly address the needs of parents, children, friends, and loved ones before, or sometimes at the cost of, our personal needs. But this virtue, like any, is best and most meaningful in moderation. Overly caring for others can easily be an unconscious cry for love or a crutch. Devoting all of your time to others can stand in the way of you caring for yourself. Taking care of yourself can feel selfish while taking care of others can seem easier than dealing with your own issues. But addressing your own needs first in some cases is beneficial and vital, not only to your own health and well-being, but to your ability to care for others when needed.
You may often find yourself faced with too many responsibilities, and those most readily given up are often those most important to you. Ask yourself why. Do you feel the need to prove yourself by being selfless or hope your sacrifice will be acknowledged? Do you feel selfish for wanting things for yourself? Or is it simply more stressful to contemplate your own needs, because they are the ones requiring the most personal effort on your part? Selfless dedication can be frustrating when we don’t find the appreciation or love we desire, which ironically leads to putting more effort into others. But when you care for yourself, you affirm your own worth and boundaries. Don’t be afraid to put yourself first now and then. Listen to your inner voice and be fair to yourself as well as to others. Have the courage to face your needs and issues head-on without putting them off by helping someone else with theirs.
Avoiding caring for oneself is often indicative of great internal struggle. It can be helpful to recognize that you are as deserving of care as any other human and that you, too, function best when your needs are met. Try, when possible, to do something special for yourself, take a break, ask for help, and give your own needs the attention they deserve.