Living life as a people-pleaser can be rough. My natural instinct is to care for people and love others. The problem is, a majority of the time, I forget to care about myself. I put my needs in the dustiest corner of my mind, so that I can think of others first. Selflessness is an essential part of our lives, however, complete selflessness is a disaster waiting to happen. So where is the line? How do we balance being selfless and being selfish, so that we can love others well while also loving ourselves?
Obviously no one should be entirely selfish, just like no one should be entirely selfless. When I say, “It’s okay to be selfish,” I’m trying to tell you that it is okay to prioritize yourself every once in a while. There is freedom in choosing yourself. When you neglect your own needs in an effort to meet the needs of others, it can become overwhelming. You may think you’re doing the right thing for the people in your life, but in reality, if you’re not taking care of yourself you can’t care for others to your full potential. In fact, taking care of yourself will allow you to love others in a more genuine and impactful way.
Practicing self-care is vital in dealing with the pressures of our daily lives. Self-care is about knowing when you are emotionally exhausted, so that you can take a step back and rest. It’s about taking the time to focus on yourself, your goals, and your life.
If you’re like me at all, you say yes to everything. If that’s the case, setting boundaries is crucial. As a college student, it is very easy for me to overbook my schedule. Saying yes to every coffee date is a habit that I desperately need to break, and while offering to do someone’s laundry is a kind gesture, I can’t do that for people all the time. Do whatever you can to use your acts of kindness wisely. Create a “kindness budget” to make sure you don’t spend it all in one place. If you push yourself to a point where you feel emotionally and mentally drained, your kindness will be far less effective.
It is physically impossible for you to do everything. The more you agree to do things with people and for people, the closer you will get to your breaking point. The best thing for you to do is weight your options. Do the things that will be worthwhile in the long run. Be kind to everyone you come across, but choose a few that you will love intentionally and deeply. If you try to purposefully love every person that comes into your life, that love will not be authentic. It will be empty and exhausted, and so will you.
Love can drain you, or it can complete you. It all depends on how you love and who you love. If you love everyone and forget yourself, it will hurt you more than you may realize. You will feel empty and exhausted. Remembering to love yourself while you love others changes everything.
Next time you feel overwhelmed and overbooked, take a step back. Take a breath. Take a nap. Give yourself some time to be alive and free to wander. Reschedule that coffee date so that you can focus on yourself for a bit. Realize that it really is okay to be selfish sometimes, even if it’s just once a week. Choosing your needs over others’ every once in a while will teach you to love others better, believe it or not. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you finish your day feeling exhausted because of how much (or how little) you did for people. Everyday is different, and some days you will have more love and energy to give than others. You will never be able to be completely selfless or completely selfish without falling apart. You have to let yourself be a little bit of both.
Cassandra Clare says it best, “Too much of anything could destroy you… Too much darkness could kill, but too much light could blind.” As long as you are looking for that balance of loving yourself and loving others, you are doing something right.