There is absolutely nothing selfish about caring for yourself first
Make the hand the gesture of giving, and notice that it is exactly the same as receiving. Yet we are so caught up not in receiving, but in giving.
Think about it, and focus on how many times a day you give and give. Look at the dynamics of your family life, friendships, relationships. People love so much that they believe that loving others means giving all of themselves to those they love.
Just look at a new mother, and you will see this expressed in the most vivid way. She will not even attend to any of her needs, as long as those of her infant are met. That giving until it hurts is the best way to love is just a belief—and it can be damaging.
Let’s use the analogy of a glass of water. You are the glass, love is water. In order for you to be happy, your water level needs to be at the rim. Full equals joy, happiness, love, bliss and a fulfilled life. Now, let’s say you are constantly giving. Your water level will decrease rapidly; the more you love, the faster the water level drops.
You start to feel depleted, cranky; you start expecting your water level to be refilled, and you begin to feel lack. Lack of water leads to all sorts of negative responses because you become desperate; without it you will die. But there is no water in sight, because you have used it all up, giving it to others.
How many of you can relate to this analogy? How tired, spent and drained are you from your everyday life because you are only doing what a loving person is “supposed” to do? The way you are feeling is an indicator of your state of being. If you are feeling drained, you are giving too much and not receiving.
There is only one way to allow yourself to receive, and this is to change the belief that loving others means to give of yourself completely. We will also add the belief that “In order to give to others, I need to give to myself first.” And, “I am the source of my own completeness and love.”
How do you do this? This is the fun part. When you wake up in the morning, ask yourself what you can do for yourself. It might even help to say your own name and speak to yourself in the third person. You talk to yourself a lot during the day anyway, so you might as well manage those negative thought patterns.
Say, “What would you like me to do for you today, (your name here)?” A thought, an idea, an activity, a non-activity will enter your head. Do the first thing that comes to your head, provided that it is loving and kind towards you. Cooking dinner for your family is giving. Tutoring your kids is giving. Driving for your mom is giving.
I’m not saying stop the giving; I’m saying, add an act of service for yourself. It could be one of the following:
Whenever I pass by a mirror, I will say, “Hi, beautiful!”
I will only say nice things to myself about myself today.
I will not judge myself or anyone else today.
I will wear lipstick.
I will smile at everyone today.
It does not have to be some grand gesture. It is any act that makes you feel good about being you. Once I tried to set my alarm every hour for eight hours, and each time it would ring I would say thank you to God for whatever it was I was doing at that particular moment. It made me so happy that whenever I feel that that world is not being fair to me, I do this, and it instantly makes me feel good.
This teaches you that you are the source of your happiness, and you alone can create happiness in your life. It isn’t easy to do an act of service for yourself, only because you really never have. Don’t you think it is time to start?
In giving to yourself everyday, you are actually reprogramming your brain, thoughts and belief systems into focusing on the fact that it is safe for you to receive, that you can receive without guilt, that it is okay to take care of yourself first. The only way to true happiness and fulfillment is through self-love, self-care and self-acceptance, and there is absolutely nothing selfish about caring for yourself first.
On the contrary, if you care for yourself first, you are validating to the universe and your brain that you are the source of your own love and fulfillment. That source is within, and never external. You will never find it in a spouse, a job or even the best friend in the world. You will always be searching for external validation unless you give it to yourself.
By filling your own water glass, you create more and more love, which you are now free to give to whomever you wish without expectation. Expectation that ruins all relationships. Yet the only way we can free our loved ones from expectations is to love ourselves. Then what you give becomes free, pure, authentic and without strings attached. That is true giving.
And when you give without condition, because you are no longer depriving yourself, you open yourself to receive.
Let’s go back to the glass of water. It is now full because you filled it up from your own source, and are not depleted in any way, now you can receive. Your stores will never run out because you are your own supply, and whatever you receive is just the icing on the cake that you give thanks for on a daily basis.
This is the true nature of abundance. This is the cycle you focus your attention on, and I guarantee that happiness will be a constant in your life. What have you got to lose? You won’t know unless you try.
Give yourself a week. One act of service to yourself, for yourself, for seven days. If it doesn’t work, stop. If it works, make it a part of your daily ritual. You will not look back.
Published March 1, 2016 in Philippine Daily Inquirer Thriving in SouLove column.