Some men and some women that I know have this two-sided talent: They are wonderful at helping others, taking care of others and – well… at self-sacrifice. Two sided indeed. Because obviously, it is not the lesson of servitude that these folks are presented with – they have plenty where that comes from. The course that they find themselves participating in, at least most of them, is called Balance 101.
As it turns out, many of the people I am talking about are either very loving parents or incredibly dedicated teachers of all types. It seems as if work and service never stops for them. It is what makes them beautiful, but it is also their pitfall at times.
Having been surrounded by quite a few such people in my youth was a blessing. It really was. But a blessing in disguise, for what surrounds you may spill over and touch you. And I, too, find myself having to learn some balancing lessons at times.
When you choose to help, assist, advise, and care for others, the most painful thing can become losing yourself in the process of loving too much. Forgetting that you are special too. Putting your own needs on the back burner. And like any tool that serves its purpose: if you are not kept in proper shape by yourself, you will wear and become useless. Resulting in artwork that is found wanting.
So the question is: how do I find a proper balance between service to others and service to myself?
Granted, many people (including yours truly) see service to their fellow humans – be they family, children, friends, students – as the expression of Love that it undoubtedly is. Sometimes, however, a fear of seeming or – God forbid! – of being selfish can be at the root of failing to say ‘no’ to yet another request for service. And then – in all honesty – there can be this often ignored, but very motivating conviction that you have to somehow earn the love of those you serve by… yes, by serving them. Ouch! In this case your serving others may actually have its own selfish bug gnawing at its roots.
What often helps me is to imagine myself to be my own best friend. Stepping outside of myself as it were, and looking at myself from a neutral position. Would I accuse my best friend of being selfish for not responding to the request at hand? Probably not. We’re always harsher on ourselves than on those around us, right? And about that nagging, gnawing bug? Well if I discover its unwelcome traces, it’s time for a side step in my Balance 101 class, namely a brush-up on Self-Love 102.
Yes, help others! But help yourself too. Love others, but don’t forget to love yourself too. The trick is in the balancing act between the two. And just like any balancing game I played in my childhood, the way to go is this: allow yourself to lean both ways a couple of times at first. It is actually this leaning back and forth – and back and forth again – that gives birth to stability and harmony in the end.
Do you find yourself having challenges balancing care for others with self-care? Do you sometimes struggle between dedication and down-time? Please share if you have tips to overcome this!