Love yourself first: A healthy kind of selfish

Photo of Ashton Byers by Megan Horn | Staff Photographer | mhorn.express@gmail.com

Ashton Byers
Staff Writer
asheebye.express@gmail.com

I’m laying in the bathtub as I write this. Wrinkled fingertips, I’m reflecting on the quiet moment I have alone. As my son watches a movie in his room, I cling to the small amount of solitude I can get. Reflecting on the past two weeks, I’ve come to realize that taking time out for myself is important. I may need to get my hair done, share a mimosa with a friend, try on new clothes or take quiet study time. A couple of hours spent kid free is good for my mental health. However, this has not always been my attitude. I used to believe that every, single dollar should go my kids, and anything short of that was bad parenting.

While my kids still take most of my money, I have also realized the importance of taking care of myself. If I am not selfishly making sure my needs are met, how am I to reach my full potential as a mother and make sure their needs are met? Let’s face it, as a veteran, full time student, and single mother of two, that’s a lot to handle.

I’ve done the best I can, but it comes with a cost. Burnout. I was physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted to the point where I realized self-care was not only necessary, but required to get through the day.

Earlier today, before I decided to soak in a bubble bath, I chose to seek out acupuncture. It was only as I lay on the table, needs poking through my back, that I realized how much stress I really carry.

The doctor started with cupping, to which my upper back received the most cups. I felt the tension as the cups began to suck up all the pressure from the load I had been carrying on my shoulders. As needles traced up and down my spine, the doctor informed me that I was only 20 percent healed, and that she wanted me back for a total of five sessions. Being “selfless” had come at the cost of losing myself and living in pain, while being consumed with the label that I could somehow do it all. Perfectly, at that.

I am not Superwoman. I can’t be everything to everyone all of the time. There is nothing heroic about walking around in chronic pain. There is nothing super about missing your Spanish exam because you were consumed with the stomach bug, being unable to recall any material on an exam because you were up all night extracting vomit from your toddler’s hair. We push through for them—because we have an end goal in sight.

I’ve come to realize that it’s not only okay to take a break from the stress life throws at us. You take care of everyone else, but who takes care of you? We live in a very individualistic world, where selfishness has become the norm. However, for people who have kids or others who depend on them, being selfish might be hard to come by. One tends to lose oneself accommodating others before realizing being selfish does in fact help one become more selfless.

To serve another, one must serve themselves. It’s like the airline attendant always instructs us: you must put your own mask on before assisting the person next to you. One must take time to take care of oneself to avoid burning out, and thus lose themselves in the process. Let’s face it, life is messy and complicated, so taking some time out to breathe is good for the soul.