Jason McSheene

An Outlet for Thoughts, Ideas, and Discussion

Be Your Own Top Priority (And Why It’s Not Selfish)

When asked “What is most important in your life?” your answer might sound like this list: my family, my friends, my work, or my religion (to just name the most common answers). But understood in each of those is that you are there to contribute to your family, your friends, your work, or your religion. If there is no you, your experience with all of those goes out the window. So it’s vital that you first take care of yourself.

Michael Hyatt commonly uses the air plane emergency procedure metaphor: In the event of an emergency, oxygen masks may be released from the ceiling. Properly place the mask on your face then help others with their masks. In other words, if you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot take care of anyone else adequately. I would argue that if you are unable to take of yourself, you will not even know what “helping others” truly means.
The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs From ''The Æsop for Children'', by Æsop Project Gutenberg etext 19994 http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/19994 ==Used on== *w:en:The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs ==License== {{PD-Gutenberg}

The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs From ”The Æsop for Children”, by Æsop Project Gutenberg etext 19994 http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/19994 ==Used on== *w:en:The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs ==License== {{PD-Gutenberg}

Self care involves physical, intellectual, social, and emotional aspects, all of which become stronger when we allow ourselves to be interdependent. There are so many topics to discuss concerning the practical steps of growth in each of these areas but I’ll focus on the overall effect. I believe empathy is the most important ruler of morality and goodness. However, we often want so badly to help those around us by sacrificing resources (emotional, financial, physical, etc.) that we do not have to give. This is killing the Golden Goose for her precious eggs instead of nurturing her and allowing her lay them naturally and often. In other words, giving what you are not prepared to give is hurting yourself and damaging your ability to give later.

So how do we place ourselves first without becoming overly selfish? I’m not perfect at all, but I do try to actively infuse an attitude of service into most of what I do, even if it is for myself. All it takes is to ask “Why am I doing _______ ?”
Example: “Why am I exercising?” – “I want to live a healthy, long life to help set a good example and to reap the beneficial effects in my work to better provide for my family.”
This mentality applies to activities that may be purely seen as recreation to someone who is not sharing your point of view. For a personal example, I love playing a strategy game called Starcraft (which will be featured in a future post). To an outsider, hearing that I sat down for an hour on a Sunday night to play this game might sound wasteful when I could be working on various projects. However, I know I must set aside some time during the week to relax while using my brain, especially after a long week of working in the lab. This is a way I recharge intellectually, emotionally, and socially (since I am an introvert).
Example: “Why am I playing Starcraft?” “I need this recreation time in order to restore balance between work and play. If I do not feel this balance, I do my worst work and I am emotionally/socially unavailable to my girlfriend, family, and friends.”
With a service mentality, you can assign meaning to tasks you feel might be pointless, profoundly important, or just plain fun. Never forget to perform the bulk of your activities with those people/things/purposes you are servicing in mind.Do you feel too overburdened by outside factors, people, or responsibilities to be able to put yourself first? Leave a comment for discussion! Thanks -J

Updated: November 12, 2015 — 9:26 am


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  1. I like to think of all altruism, as selfish no matter what. In that… its impossible to do something of your own will (even in extreme scenarios of “gun to the head” that you do not “want” to do.

    We do things for others because it makes us feel good, or because we fear the judgment we’d receive by not doing it, or because we expect/anticipate something in return etc etc.

    But overall I do agree with you that “well intentioned” self-serving decisions tend to be looked at, as selfish and negative when (depending on the situation) they should be looked at as self investment/bettering yourself. (as you pointed out with the exersising investment analogy)

    side note, im not sure how to read the last line, I think it may be a typo/mistake?

    1. I agree, I think framing it either way leads to truthful statements about human nature. We do things to feel better about ourselves, we might as well use that instinct to help drive positive change in our lives.

      Thanks for the typo warning. Maybe it makes more sense now? This comment was a bit late. Apologies but I appreciate your input!

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