You live for yourself first

It sounds simple. It also sounds selfish. But it is true and necessary. It is something I need to remind myself of surprisingly often.

Of course, I’m not out to promote selfishness. That’s not what this is about. The simple fact of the matter is that we shouldn’t neglect ourselves.

Today, once again, I feel tired. I have another long shift ahead of me at work, which means I likely won’t be home before 1am. That means I’m likely in bed by 2 if I don’t collapse earlier than that.

Tomorrow the same. And I have a work Zoom call in the late morning that may last a little longer than usual as there is much to discuss. Then I head out once again.

I know I’m going to be fine, probably even energized when I get to work later today. Tomorrow probably not so much anymore. But I will manage either way. The price will be paid on Friday when I will be too exhausted to get much of anything done, even though I will still have obligations.

When I feel this sort of exhaustion in my bones, though, I remind myself that I really like my job and that I have chosen this. Not usually so many shifts in a row, with so much to do and so little rest (I should also be doing some freelance work, after all), but I still like my job and it isn’t always like this. Most of the time it is not, in fact.

But yeah, the question crops up as to why I am doing this. Or the thought that I’m definitely not getting paid enough. And I’m not.

And this, inevitably, reminds me that I live for myself first. This includes taking care of my mental, physical and emotional well-being. If not looked after, I’m no use to anyone anyway.

I am allowed to say no. I am allowed to rest. I am allowed to take a break and also ask for one when I need it. I am allowed to re-evaluate the status quo, question it and ask for more because it isn’t good enough.

Saying that I live for myself first doesn’t make me selfish. Unless I act selfishly. There is a huge difference. Living for yourself first only makes you an ass if you trample on everyone else to serve your own needs.

This is not what I am talking about.

When we recognize the simple truth that we live for ourselves first, it acknowledges that we don’t need to put anyone else’s needs or demands above our own. There are times when we will do just that, of course. Especially as a parent, for instance. Or in the line of duty. But even then we shouldn’t neglect ourselves to the extent that it will impact our ability to care for or serve others.

For me today, and tomorrow, telling myself that I do live for myself first is a reminder to treat myself more gently and to say no in order to protect my energy. I like my job, but it shouldn’t leave me this exhausted and feeling that I am not compensated well enough. I can ask for more. And I should.

And then I rest.

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