The most important relationship that you will ever have in your life is with yourself. Many religious and spiritual practices offer guidelines and practices by which someone can develop that relationship. Ultimately, it’s about knowing yourself as an individual, growing and becoming a better person every day. But one thing that we tend to forget is taking care of ourselves.
I’ve always had a negative association to being selfish. To me, it meant not caring about anyone else around me and focusing on myself and my own needs, regardless of anyone. This translated into me spreading myself thin too many times to count because I wanted to help family and friends, even though there were times where I probably needed help more than them.
So how do we find a healthy balance between giving to others and giving back to ourselves?
That is a question that I am still working out to find that balance between myself and my relationships. Although there is no black and white answer and depending on your situation (family relationships, friendships, and intimate relationships) the pendulum will constantly be shifting because some circumstances might require more of your attention and energy at times.
Let’s take a step back: what do I mean by being selfish? In this context, I mean putting yourself first, being honest with yourself about how you’re feeling physically and emotionally, and recognizing when you need to take a breather and focus on yourself because you are drained. It means telling yourself that you will take time to do something for you, to ‘fill your cup’, which means different things for different people. This can easily become selfish when you are not being considerate of others around you, but at the same time, I think that allowing yourself to gather your energy and show yourself some self-love can actually make you a better partner, friend, family member.
Let’s put it this way. If you are constantly running around, taking care of others, listening to their problems, helping with different tasks, then you have less time for your own day-to-day, let alone for things that you enjoy doing. So with time, you will start to feel tired and drained and potentially even resentful towards the people around you because you have been unable to gather your energy.
However, if you recognize when your energy is depleted, it’s important to be conscious of it and take time for yourself. Even if it’s just a 30 minute of meditation or tuning out by reading a book, those moments will have a significant impact on how you are feeling, because you will be putting yourself first and taking care of your emotional and mental health, and then you can go back, energized and ‘refreshed’ to tackle another situation or issue.
How does it look in practice? This will vary greatly from one situation to another. I think knowing yourself is crucial because you need to recognize the signs when you are depleted. For myself, that’s when I start to feel frantic and anxious – I’ll be doing things really quickly and abruptly without thinking about it, and I’ll feel really tired and overwhelmed where I am just going through the motions of the day-to-day.
The next step is to know what you need to do to recuperate. It can be something short like taking a bath or a shower, reading a book with a hot cup of tea, or going out shopping with a friend, or going to the movies, going for a walk, going to exercise – the options are unlimited, but you have to find what helps you the most. There are a few things that help, and it really just depends on my energy level.
As you can see, it goes back to the initial point : you must know yourself so that you can take care of yourself.
What are some signs that you need to take time for yourself? What are some of the things you enjoy doing that get you emotionally or physically energized? Share your thoughts and learning’s with me and the Elle is for Love community!