If you need permission to make your dreams a priority, consider this your permission.
We’ve all heard about the importance of taking care of ourselves in order to better take care of those around us, so why do we still feel selfish when we make our dreams a priority? I think this is especially true for women, who are consciously and unconsciously bombarded with the message from a very young age that we are the caretakers. Even the word “mothering” connotes selfless giving.
While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with selfless giving (in fact, giving in its truest form IS a selfless act), the issue arises when we give to the point of giving away ourselves and our identity, without honoring who WE are and what WE want from this magical, exhausting, beautiful journey called life. And that’s exactly what happens when the guilt of making our needs a priority causes us to stuff our dreams away.
That needs to stop.
Doing what’s right for us is NOT selfish.
Doing what’s right for us is our most important gift to the world, because filling our own cup allows us to contribute in a way we’re unable to contribute when we’re depleted.
Does this mean we go on a narcissistic bender, ignoring the needs of everyone around us?
Absolutely not. In fact, if we’re truly listening to our hearts, we will effortlessly exude the opposite – kindness, happiness and love – to those around us.
The reason for this is simple, and it’s something I tell my boys whenever someone is nasty to them-
Happy people aren’t mean.
Let that sink in for a second. It’s such a simple truth. Happy people aren’t mean.
Think about one of your genuinely happy moments in the past. In those moments, we are INCAPABLE of being mean. Instead, our happiness overflows and everyone around us starts smiling. Right? So when we see someone being rude, it’s a pretty safe assumption that they are not happy. Does this make their actions acceptable? No. It’s never ok to be mean. But it does demonstrate how important and UN-selfish it is to prioritize our own happiness.
Here’s a simple example:
I had some bloodwork done recently. When I arrived at the lab, there was a sign on the door saying the office was closed for lunch. Since I live 20 minutes from the lab, I decided to stand by the door and wait. Over the next 30 minutes, six other women arrived and formed a line behind me. When the door opened, I walked to the desk to check in. After a few minutes of waiting I noticed no one was coming to the desk, so I looked around and saw that all the women who had been behind me in line had walked to the other side of the waiting room and were checking in at a new “self-check in” kiosk… ahead of me.
All those women knew I had waited 30 minutes and would now be forced to the back of the line. Yet not ONE of them tipped me off to my mistake. They simply jumped right ahead of me in line with no hesitation. What’s worse, once I realized my mistake, they all looked directly at me, but not one of them offered to let me check in ahead of them.
This experience, trivial though it was, demonstrates my point:
Those women certainly DID put their own needs first.
But here’s the difference-
Making our own rules and putting our own happiness first does NOT mean ignoring the needs or rights of other people.
I cannot wrap my head around not telling someone “Hey, you were ahead of me. Come sign in over here.”
I was annoyed and hurt and felt tears stinging the backs of my eyes because I knew there was now a very good chance I’d have to leave without getting the bloodwork done in order to pick up my son from school on time. Fortunately, the lab technician saw what had happened and manually checked me in ahead of all the other women. God bless that woman for restoring my faith in humanity in that moment.
But let’s pause for a second and consider the power of an everyday situation like this:
I could have left upset and snapped at my son at pickup, who then would have gone home sad not knowing why I was angry with him (which I wasn’t). He then would have gone to his soccer game and played poorly due to his bad mood, and his coach might have become frustrated with him and yelled at all the kids who then would have gone home upset and stormed to their rooms and shut the door on their parents who would be hurt and go to bed worried, slept poorly and woken up tired and irritable in the morning only to continue the cycle. All because not one woman did the right thing at the damn lab. (Yes, I realize this is dramatic, but it makes my point.)
Now, let’s consider the other way this could have gone:
I walked up to the counter to check in, and the HAPPY lady behind me in line, realizing my mistake, called over to me, “Miss, the check-in is over here now. Come let me show you how to do it.” Would this have delayed her? Sure, by a few seconds maybe, but she was already behind me in line, so it really wouldn’t change what was going to happen in the first place. Plus, now we have a good laugh about my lack of technological savvy, a cheerful conversation and we all get our bloodwork done, go on with our day, hug our kid who goes to soccer in a great mood, has a great game, the coach and all the players and their parents go home happy, sleep well and start the next day with a feeling of joy and accomplishment from the night before, which leads them to do something kind when they see someone screwing up… and on and on…
Again, dramatic example? Maybe. But you can see just how powerful one simple act, either from a happy heart or an unhappy heart, truly is.
Here’s the thing-
When we prioritize our happiness, we ARE happier, which translates into happier interactions with others.
By filling our own cup, we have more than enough love to flow over into the lives of the people around us, so we don’t hesitate to help someone out when they need it, which leads them to do the same, and on and on... In time, this becomes second nature, and this contagious loving, positive energy spreads like wildfire.
I get so excited when I talk about this because it’s so freaking empowering.
Just one person has the power to spread so much light, simply by making our own happiness our first priority.
It’s not selfish. It’s exactly the opposite- By being happy, we are capable of spreading love.
By spreading love, we light up the darkness- In the hearts of those around us, in our communities and the world. That is the most selfLESS thing we can do.
Little ol’ you and little ol’ me. We have so much power for good.
How awesome is that?!
So let’s go love the hell out of ourselves today.