“You can’t take care of others if you can’t take care of yourself.”–Mary Mazzer.
I used to think this quote was a guilt trip for people whose lives were a mess. I am someone who struggles to be positive every single day. Between balancing classes, extracurricular responsibilities, friendships, a relationship and family, it is so rare that I have time to sit down and think about myself. Until last year, I thought this was fine.
We all want to be good people. Who wouldn’t love to be the friend helping someone through a tough day or the significant other supporting someone else’s interests before their own? Or the roommate that turns down their favorite song because someone else has a headache? Being there for other people has always been a priority to me but recently I’ve realized this does not mean I need to neglect myself.
If being kind is important to you and makes you happy, you must be kind to yourself first. Simply saying “yes” whenever an opportunity to help arises won’t satisfy you, it will drain you. Having the approval of everyone around you will not automatically make you approve of yourself.
Mental health is the key to a positive lifestyle. I know from personal experience that anxiety and depression can literally change a person. If you allow the stressors in your daily life to pile up enough, you won’t be able to enjoy things that you have loved your whole life. I will never claim that it is easy to become mentally healthy, it can be nearly impossible at times but my point is that you owe it to yourself to try.
At the end of the day, the only person you are permanently stuck with is yourself. The most important and beneficial thing you can do for yourself is to set aside time to figure out what makes you happy, what brings joy to your life, what relaxes you, what is stressful but worth dealing with and how you can find time to fit all of these in your daily life. This can be as simple as listening to a new song every night before bed, writing letters to an old friend, doodling for five minutes before doing homework or walking the long way back to your dorm on a nice day. If you can find those five minutes each day for purely yourself, the rest of your day won’t be so bad.
One major obstacle when trying to achieve this is coexisting with the people around you. If you have a condescending professor or an unorganized boss or even a roommate dealing with similar issues as yourself, you need to believe that you cannot deal with or even help them until you take care of yourself. How can you expect to solve other people’s issues with your own constantly weighing on your shoulders? Take the time to sit and think about how you are feeling before you dive into someone else’s pool of problems.
Once you finally figure out what works for you and prepares you to face the day with a clear head and a sincere smile, others will be able to rely on you even more than before. And if anyone calls you selfish for putting yourself first, please have them read this article. You’ll be doing them a favor.