When on an airplane, the flight attendants remind us to put on our own oxygen masks before helping others put on theirs—you can’t save someone else’s life if you disregard your own. Throughout my life, I have fallen into the trap of believing that I could help to put on someone else’s oxygen mask before my own. I used to think that if I could be there for others when they needed it most, I would be doing the right thing, regardless of how I felt. In doing this I’d make my friends happy, I’d make my family proud, and I’d be content with who I am as a person. Even if something hurt my feelings, I could look the other way and forget about it. This is where I was wrong.
I avoid arguments at all costs. I never want anyone to be upset with me and if I made someone feel that way I would kick myself about it for days. Because of this, something I have dealt with several times throughout my life is allowing someone to victimize themselves and make me feel like I’m in the wrong. A past friend of mine had a habit of turning things around on me in the worst way. If I would ever try to address try something she had done that hurt me, somehow it would be all my fault. I’d have to get over it and stop overreacting. If things didn’t go her way, then things wouldn’t go at all. I easily became less willing to share my feelings when something bothered me. It became easy for me to suppress the way I felt as long as no one was mad or disappointed in me.
It took time—more time than I would have liked it to—to realize that I could not live this way. It wasn’t fair to me or the people around me. As much as I care for my friends and family, and want what’s best for them, I know that I have to put myself first. And I know they would want me to put myself first because they care for me, too. I have come to understand that if there are people in my life who become angry if I don’t put their needs before my own, then these people don’t belong in my life. I’m not trying to say that the feelings and well-being of our loved ones are unimportant, that’s the complete opposite of the truth. I only mean to say that we have to learn to help others while simultaneously helping ourselves. It’s all about balance, people.
I know myself, and I know I’m naturally someone who feels happy when those around me are happy. I’m still always going to be there to put a smile on the faces of my friends and family, and I’m still going to make sure I validate the feelings and hardships of others. But I’m just going to do it in a healthier way. I’m going to support myself just as much as I support others. I want to feel strength from putting up a fight when it’s necessary rather than feeling guilty for being in the fight in the first place. I hope that anyone reading this can encourage themselves to do the same. If we all prioritize ourselves, it will become that much easier to prioritize each other too. From here on out my focus is securing my own oxygen mask first, not because I think that other people are any less important, but because I’d be suffocating while trying to help them, and that wouldn’t do anyone else any good, would it?