THE BLOG

Contrary to Popular Belief, Self-Care Is Important

07/24/2015 04:26pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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Picture this:

You're having an outer body experience, attending your own funeral. Unfortunately, you died at a young age. Everyone's crying, saying you were taken "too soon," that you had a bright future ahead of you, and that you were such a nice, helpful person. Watch as they carry your casket to the chosen graveyard. Envision your friends, colleagues and family members walking up to your casket, paying their respects and placing beautiful red roses on top of your wooden home. And see them sob, or stand in melancholy silence, as your casket is lowered six feet under.

All that potential and all the promise, gone -- buried in mere dirt.

Now snap out of it.

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You're probably thinking, "That can't happen to me." But oh, it can. In fact, so many of us are on this path and we don't even know it.

Don't believe me? Let me give you a real-life example.

A few weeks ago, I had an impromptu conversation with my brother. He asked me what I'd been up to and I started to list my successes and grievances. He patiently listened, nodding his head when he liked what he heard, and then making an outrageous face when he thought something was a tad crazy. There was no doubt he was proud of me. However, when he asked me how things were going financially, I didn't have his favorite answer.

"I have to be more strategic about what I do. I can barely pay the bills."

He wasn't happy. "Why didn't you tell me this before?" he asked.

Well, all I could tell him was that I wanted to figure out a solution and that I was frustrated I couldn't financially give more to others. I wanted to purchase products from my business colleagues. I wanted to invest more in my business. I wanted to do all these great things and I did accomplish some of them but in doing so, I'd neglected my well-being. Upon hearing that response, my brother dropped this bomb of wisdom on me.

"Sis," he said, "Do you know why they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first in a case of emergency on a plane?"

"Yes! Because you can't save the person next to you if you're dead."

"Exactly," he responded.

It was then that I realized, I was giving to those around me out of emptiness and instead of realizing where I needed to cut back, I tried to add more to my plate so I could give more. I had neglected the cardinal rule, "Love others as you would love yourself." Frankly, I felt selfish even thinking about it but when I pondered the plane example, I knew he was right. If I couldn't make ends meet, how could I help someone else?

The lesson here is that we cannot pour into others if we ourselves are empty. I can't give someone money from a bank account with $0. I can't teach someone how to dress if I have horrible style. Make sense? And I know that you might say, "Well, that's who I am -- I'm a giver. I always help people." That's great! But have you ever stopped to realize that takers don't have boundaries?

I digress.

Being helpful and blessing others with what little we have is commendable. But remember, if you're dead, you won't be able to help anyone. So let's take a hint and invest in self-care because whether you like it or not, you cannot serve on empty. Apply to life as necessary.