In self-care, we often refer to the airline metaphor of putting the oxygen mask on first before putting it on someone else. This means to take care of yourself first in the most responsible way possible. It means to make the hard call. And to know gratitude. I’ve met people who do all the other self-care stuff – eat well, hydrate, get enough sleep, do the therapy, take the master courses – but without working through the hard calls, and without the fierce gratitude, they continuously feel depleted. Because at that point, the self-care need is existential. It becomes about working through one’s potential, and how they find purpose and connection with the world.
Allow those around you to work through their own stuff. Including your own children. Let them know you love them, then watch and learn. Witness the strength of those around you emerge as you provide that space for them.
Then look out past your inner circle to see who really needs help. Use what privilege you have to protect those that need protecting. Tweeting your thoughts isn’t a protective act. Serving with your body is. Or donating as much as you can for that service. If we were twice as concerned about giving back than taking, the world might look different. We might feel purposeful and connected.
The right kind of self care gives you energy the way someone with millions in the stock market invested in companies paying handsome dividends never runs out of money. They never have to tap into their principal, and they have the ability to provide for many families. Your energy doesn’t have to be in the form of money. It can work in the form of strength, endurance, vitality, and humanity. And that can provide for the entire planet. But no matter how giving you are, if you haven’t taken the steps to sustain yourself, you will become needy and unreliable.
The opposite of poverty isn’t wealth. It’s dignity. It’s humanity. We can only provide this for others when we have it in ourselves to give.