Is it OK to Look After Yourself First?

Looking after ourselves has got a bad press: it’s seen as selfish, narcissistic, new age, you name it. But when we are taken through the safety procedures on a plane, we always hear that should pressure in the cabin decrease and air masks drop down, we should always place our own over our faces first before putting them on our children…

When we are taken through the safety procedures on a plane, we always hear that should pressure in the cabin decrease and air masks drop down, we should always place our own over our faces first before putting them on our children. This post from the Psychology, Transformation and Freedom Papers is a nice reminder that if we do not take care of ourselves first, we are going to be unable to help those who need us.

Looking after ourselves has got a bad press: it’s seen as selfish, narcissistic, new age, you name it. In fact as Gabriella Kortsch reminds us in the post, uncomfortable states can be taken care of “as they occur in the same way you would take care of a cut on your finger, or a break to your leg”. It makes sense. If we are angry, stressed, miserable, why sweep it under the carpet to be dealt with later, or not to be dealt with at all because it’s not important, or inevitable, or other ways in which we belittle our own needs and experiences?

When something is swept under the carpet, of course, it has not gone anywhere. Maybe the main reason we do that is because we just don’t know what to do with those uncomfortable feelings. (I consciously use uncomfortable rather than ‘negative’ so as not to judge these perfectly normal parts of life). We don’t believe there actually is anything to be ‘done’ with them. Funnily enough this often coexists with trying to fix other people’s emotional states!

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Gabriella writes that our experience of our own “energy” is “your own, personal, inner, private tool that lets you know when you are not on the right track” (emphasis original). While “energy” may not be a concept that appeals to everyone, we all have this “private tool”. We can call it our experience, our intuition, our body, etc. It’s an orienting sense and source of information which tells us that something is wrong, we are slightly off course.

Once we pay attention to the signs and receive the information we can do something to shift not the circumstances which make us e.g. sad or angry, but our attitude towards ourselves for having the emotions. We become aware of the rest of ourselves, which is in balance, surrounding those emotions, that distressed thing. Then we find the next step to tip the balance, to feel alright with ourselves, as alright as we can be. People in this state of balance, using themselves as a source of information — a good counsellor can really help with this — are as alright as they can be in their present circumstances. They are invariably of great value and help to others.

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