When I was younger, I had a lot of catching up to do in the “learning to be selfless” department. I was about as selfish and egocentric as any teenager could be and that meant that I was pretty terrible at caring for other people.
So when I left high school for college, I purposely swung the bar the other way. Instead of giving nothing, I gave everything. I went from zero to one hundred in a misguided effort to make up for all that I hadn’t done in the past.
But life isn’t just give or take; it’s about the balance between them.
Over time I learned to give when I had more than enough to offer, when I was able and steady enough to help others. And then much later I learned how to rely on other people in the right way, without the fear of being selfish. I learned how to take only when I really needed it, when I wasn’t feeling my best self, when I was struggling on my own.
When I gave everything, I devalued myself. I treated everything else as more important than my own well-being and that’s not ok. It allowed others the opportunity to take advantage of me, to belittle me, and to overlook me. But I am strong and I am important.
I had to step off the pedestal too, though. My own personal value, as real and important as it is, doesn’t place me above anyone else. My life is no more precious than someone else’s’ and I have to remind myself of that sometimes, especially when I’m angry or frustrated. It’s a constant battle to stay in balance, to keep myself in check.
Lately I’ve been acting kind of selfish. I’ve asked a lot of sympathy from people for what I’m going through right now, the anxiety and pressure that I’ve been feeling to make things work. And yet there’s still a part of me that craves more individualized attention, that wants not a quick “how are you?” from a friend, but a more dedicated someone to prioritize me and my feelings the way that I do.
But even though that selfishness is there, I’m still very fortunate with so much to offer. I may not be where I want to be, but that doesn’t mean I’m not in a position to give support and love to those around me, too.
I have to give as well as take.