I am fortunate this week to have the company of my daughter who is down from NYC for a bit of time before she moves overseas to teach English in Asia. She is one of the most caring and generous people I know and often espouses wisdom beyond her years.
Either yesterday or the day before (my memory is just not as sharp as it used to be), we were talking about the support she constantly provides to others, and how, at critical times of stress, one cannot lend support to others when it is most needed within. I hope that she won’t mind me paraphrasing her words – but they were along the lines of
“Put on your own mask first… before assisting others.”
As women, I believe that most of us were raised to help others before thinking of ourselves — and, as a result, we support everyone around us, before tending to our own needs. Often, when we need support, we find that we stand alone. And, I might add, it is our own fault – we have a flawed belief system! What gives us the right to expect support from others just because we give it?
Life is not fair (we know this by now) and there is no guarantee of reciprocity! (I’ve said it before that The Golden Rule is a good theory for teaching children to share, but it seldom works in adult life!)
I’ve talked to several confident and successful women friends who were raised similarly (gosh, one of the Girl Guide sayings when I grew up in Canada was: “A Brownie is cheerful and obedient – a Brownie always thinks of others before herself” – sheesh !!!!) — and share a diminished sense of self-worth! When one gives away something that which is still needed (support), it is folly to expect survival. After years of giving to others, we end up feeling resentful that no one is nurturing us. The answer is that we need to nurture our own needs first! This means giving ourselves ample support –be it financial, emotional, cheerleading, physical rest, happy thoughts, encouragement, empathy, unconditional love, etc. — BEFORE supporting others. (A novel thought indeed!)
I believe that this “oxygen mask philosophy” should be taught to children (and adults who never learned it) everywhere: Take care to support and love yourself (put on your own mask first); then – and only then – can we effectively help others.
To my lovely daughter – I wish for you all the wonders and love that the world can possibly give you – you deserve it. I love you and I hope that somehow, someday, you’ll see my love as support and wisdom back to you. Thank you for YOUR wisdom…
Have a great week!