“You’ve gotta do you.”
That’s James’ version, but there are plenty other ways to express this idea. Put your oxygen mask on before assisting others. New moms are often reminded the best thing to do for their kids is take care of their mom.
Whatever words you choose, it’s a good life rule. It’s not selfish to put yourself first. If you don’t, no one else will. Someone has to take care of you.
I’ve had this conversation with so many of my friends. It seems epidemic to “do everyone else” first and keep the leftovers for ourselves. We do things out of a sense of obligation rather than because we want to.
- I should go to her baby shower.
- I should throw her baby shower.
- I should run that race.
- I should help them move.
- I should take care of my older relatives.
- I should make Christmas gifts for everyone.
I spent time in therapy learning how to stop “overgiving.” When my therapist asked what I would like to do with my newly found time, the first thing I said was “volunteer more.” She nicely told me that wasn’t the answer she was looking for.
I got the message loud and clear. When I moved to New York, I stopped putting anyone else first. I stopped with the “I shoulds.” Now when I give it’s because I want to.
That’s not to say we can’t plan our friends’ birthday parties or that it’s OK to neglect people who need us. It just means more if it comes from the heart than out of obligation.
You know what? It feels really good to “do me.” I no longer go out with friends because they want me to. I go out with friends because I want to. When I go out of a (self-imposed) sense of obligation, I’m not really present. I’m going through the motions, but not happy to be there. Maybe I’m counting down how long I “have to” be there before I can leave. None of those scenarios are good for me or the people I’m with.
It’s better to “do me” and say “no thanks” to invitations I’m not interested in. That leaves me with more room in my heart and my schedule for things I want to do – like when I threw baby showers for my friend Betsy and sister-in-law Sarah. I loved that and didn’t want anyone else to do it instead of me.