Caring for ourselves: it really is OK
If filling another person's cup requires emptying our own, are we really being kind in the purest sense?
By James Adams
There are so many people in our world with hearts filled to the brim with kindness and generosity. Looking out for each other is an intrinsic part of what it means to be human.
I help you – your life is enriched and I receive joy from being part of that experience.
Kindness and generosity are amongst the highest virtues known to us. Life as we know it would be rather bleak without the light provided by millions of caregiving hearts.
We need kindness – we need lots of it to light up our world. But do we show enough kindness towards ourselves? Are getting the balance right? Admittedly I do not sometimes.
Investing lots of our precious time and resources into caring for others may come at a significant price – the absence of our own care. Listening to your friend’s romantic woes may stop you from listening to your own voice. The hour-long journaling that you planned in your local coffee shop is no longer possible – you didn’t even have time to get out of the door. Did you have to abandon your baking to tend to a neighbour's shopping? Opting to be of service to others is not always the most sensible thing to do – not if your own wellbeing is lined up to be neglected in the process.
A journaling session could be the birth of an idea for a new project. It could have helped you to see a toxic situation in a completely different light. Perhaps baking a cake was going to help you recharge and feel confident again.
Exchanging those opportunities to listen to someone else’s problems may not be the most caring thing to do if we ourselves need help. If filling another person’s cup requires emptying our own, are we really being kind in the purest sense?
The depletion of our own cup may make us less kind in the long run, for it is impossible to be our true selves if we do not look after our own mind and body. A car with no petrol cannot take anyone to their destination, nor can a person lacking in self-care seek to care for others.
Should that mean that we cease to care for others altogether? Not at all. But is it ok to check in with ourselves first before reaching out to others? Absolutely. Once we attend to our own care, the door is cast wide open to reach out to others. Looking out for one another makes us human. Humans cannot hope to co-exist on this small planet without it. But it is ok to care for yourself before extending a hand.
Remember this if you ever feel selfish about taking a long bubble bath. Caring for yourself makes it possible to care for others. It cannot ever be the other way round.