With the copious amounts of downtime Covid-19 has so graciously provided us (sarcasm). I’ve been doing a lot of self-discovery work including therapy, “spirit-work”, and counseling. It has been the most transformative six weeks of my life.
I have come to a lot of various realizations and revelations about things that had been dictating my life and my self-image for most of my life. I’d like to share them with you. One of those things, was my unintentional need to sacrifice myself for others.
When I look at the things I regret in my life, most of them are things where I went against my gut, my better judgement, for the needs or comfort of someone else. I know how that sounds but stick with me. These are not just cases of letting someone go ahead of me in traffic. I aim to put others before myself in most situations – that is part of humility, which I value.
But there is a difference between
self-sacrifice: sacrificing your time, goods, or needs for the needs or comfort of others…
sacrificing yourself: losing yourself, sacrificing your values, your dreams, or health for the comfort of needs of others.
In the recent weeks I have been trying to draw a defining line between the two. When was I self-sacrificial?
- Picking up shifts when I could have used sleep
- Doing work for others before I had my own work done
- Donating money that I could have used to pay my bills, buy groceries, etc.
And when did I sacrifice myself?
- Keeping my needs to myself as to not “inconvenience someone”, leading to resentment and hurt on both sides
- Giving up a job I desperately wanted for someone else (who didn’t even get that job).
- Letting guilt about being selfish hold me back from making moves I should have made.
- Giving into the needs/wants of others, even though they went against my values.
The latter are the things that keep me up at night.
This is something that has been bred in me as a woman. We are to be self-less in all things. We are supposed to care for everyone, to put ourselves last, to be a martyr, to be everyone’s everything.
No one ever said “You deserve your own sense of self. You deserve to know who you are and what you want, outside of the roles you play in relation to others.” And no one explicit said “You don’t deserve that” but it’s just implied. You shouldn’t want too much or put yourself first or else you’re a brat, a bitch, selfish, and spoiled.
I have some big dreams. Dreams that I cannot accomplish without making changes. I will have to let go of a lot, knowing it could produce a lot more.
But these changes will also temporarily make life hard for people in my life, they might ruin some friendships or relationships, they might make some people uncomfortable, and I know I will feel guilt for putting myself first.
So here’s what I’ve come up with to help me make decisions that require me to put myself first. I ask myself two questions.
- What pain will be worse, the pain/guilt of causes an inconvenience for someone else or passing up the opportunity?
- What choice will better the lives of the people I love the most and myself?
- If a friend were asking me what to do, what would I tell them to do?
And I won’t tell you coming to an answer makes it easy. It doesn’t. But, it makes it clear. You know what you need to do.
It’s okay to be selfless. I love helping others, too, but I’m done doing it at the expense of my soul. If always putting yourself last makes you feel whole and fulfilled then, babygirl, you do you.
But if putting yourself last makes you feel less then, like you don’t matter, maybe it’s time to treat yourself like you matter just as much as everyone else.
Because you do matter. No matter what society, your upbringing, or inner-critic says- you matter, your needs matter, your dreams matter. Just don’t forget that.