If I asked you to name the most important person(s) in your life, what would you say?
Would it be your spouse?
Or just wrap it up in one tidy package and say “my family.”
How often is the answer to this question something more along these lines:
“Me. I am the most important person in my life.”
Loving our children, siblings, spouses, parents, extended family, friends and neighbors is not always easy, but for the most part, they are the people who are the most important to us.
We celebrate their birthdays. We scoop cat litter for people we love and drive them to get their wisdom teeth removed.
Some of this we are actually responsible for (our own kids) and some of it we do out of the kindness of our hearts.
What about responsibility to self?
Or doing out of the kindness of your heart for just you?
Remember the episode of Friends when Phoebe and Joey disagreed about whether or not there was such a thing as a selfless good deed?
Phoebe was convinced there was and Joey was determined that every good deed, no matter how stressful has a benefit to the doer: at the very least the doer gets the satisfaction of knowing he or she did a good deed.
So, therefore, no good deed is completely selfless.
Maybe that’s why we do so much for others. Because it feels good to help one another. There are worse things than feeling useful and important to another person, that’s for sure.
But what would happen if we put care for the self at the center? What if doing the good deeds for yourself was just as rewarding as doing them for other people?
Time is a great example of what we give away. How many chunks of time do you tentatively plan to give to yourself, but throughout the day, slips away for others? Or for errands on behalf of others?
This happens in my world and I don’t think I’m alone. I’ll plan to exercise at 4pm, then realize at 3:30 that I don’t have what I need to make dinner. Exercise gets postponed – or more likely skipped altogether – for the sake of going to the grocery store, to feed my family, who it is my joyful responsibility to feed. (Each time this happens I realize while I’m in the kitchen that I could have just ordered pizza and gone shopping the next day. While I worked out, someone could have cooked and brought dinner to my kids and they would have been perfectly happy.)
What if we took the time to literally count the hours we have available in the day, make sure we get all of our own important stuff done first, and then assign the rest of our time to the needs of others?
What if your calendar included your workout, your creative time, your work time, your time with the kids, and specific time per week that you can give to the needs of others?
We don’t have to shout it from the rooftops. We don’t have to post it on Facebook. But we can make a commitment to the self that declares that we are the most important person. Or at least in that collective list of “most important” peeps.
It strikes me that if we want our kids or other people we influence to grow into human beings who take care of themselves and contribute to society by being as self-sufficient as possible, the most powerful tool in our arsenal for teaching those lessons is demonstration.
You know what they say: if you want your kids to be readers and to develop a love of reading, they are more likely to do so if they see their parents reading.
If you want your kids to eat healthy and exercise, it probably helps if they see you doing those things.
Want your kids to follow their dreams, give time to their own creative efforts, and be true to themselves?
We know where it starts…we just have to start it.
Like this article? Please feel free to use it on your own blog or newsletter. I simply ask that you please include this blurb:
Sara Marchessault is a coach, writer, and mom who is on a mission to increase joy on the planet. Through the practice of self-reflection, we become aware of what brings us joy and what does not, and we make choices to move forward or stand still. Journal writing is a powerful reflection tool that can help any of us move forward, even in the darkest of times. To learn more about Sara and her work in the world, please visit saramarchessault.com.