It's so easy to put others first. We're taught to do that from a young age, especially girls. If we put ourselves first, we're selfish or bitchy. Hence, the care-taking personality trait that I and many people possess. Or being a people pleaser. I'm in an industry that's all about being of service to others. Helping them through their troubles or challenges toward a better life. I am in no way knocking that. It gives meaning to what I do. But since starting on my own journey of growth and deciding I could put my strengths and natural tendencies to good use, the idea that my purpose in life is to be of service has never sat well with me. It just doesn't ring true. So, I've been thinking about it and trying to sort out why not. It seems so noble to want to help people. But when I say that, it's almost without meaning, like some sort of catch all non-answer. "I just want to help people."
Honestly, I want to help myself first. And to make "the help" I give others more specific and meaningful. Part of my journey from a dependent child to an empowered adult has been and continues to be making myself my first priority followed by my higher power, then other people. Not putting other people in first or second position. Putting others first turns me into a caring person, but out of touch with what I really need, want or what would be healthiest for me. Think co-dependent relationship. Although, having all of my focus on someone else keeps me out of my own head and away from having to deal with my own shit. But it also makes me powerless to take action for myself. Been there, done that and I don't want the f*ing t-shirt.
When I'm the first priority and other people are in the second position, I'm always seeking approval for my decisions and choices. So even when I want to take action for myself, I'm still giving my power to other people. But on the plus side, I don't have to make any of my own decisions or take full responsibility for the outcome. Though getting input from a friend or family is needed. As in, how to respond to someone's text, but not if what they suggest doesn't feel right to me. It's helpful to get outside input, to give perspective and to keep from reacting to said text or Facebook post in anger. Believe me, I've been tempted in recent weeks. But I'm trying to make myself and what I value a priority. Respect, freedom of expression, self-empowerment, intelligent debate, compassion and kindness are important to me. Behaving in alignment with what I value is a way of making myself my own priority. If my behavior adheres more to other people's values than my own, I've let myself down.
Case in point, as a new coach, I'm figuring out how to make my business successful in impact and revenue. It's not easy. There are so many people out there who are selling their business plans and strategies, claiming their way will get you the revenue and success you desire. There's so much competition to help you with your new coaching business. I could spend my time buying strategies, templates and blueprints, etc... Putting the opinion of others first. Because though they claim to be experts, they aren't. Because they're not experts in me. Only I am. And although it's scary and challenging, I'm keeping my focus on my own shit and trying to gather knowledge and strategies that resonate with me. And working through my own stuff so I can take the next right action to my highest good and the good of others.
In acting school, my teacher Kingston used to say that the person you were acting with was always the most important person in the room until they weren't anymore. The ultimate point of focus being yourself, on your own needs and wants. There's only so far you can stretch or conform for someone else before you just can't anymore. You may not even realize you've gone past the point and have moved away from what you want into what they want. They can be people in your life or society (or your interpretation of society). If you're not aware of your wants and desires or you've decided they don't matter, you might not realize you're not the priority. All while trying to convince yourself you've made the right choice.
I'm not suggesting you become a jerk and stop caring about people. I'm advocating a healthy amount of selfishness. Caring about yourself, your state of mind, physical health and future well-being doesn't preclude you from caring about others. When you're able to meet your needs and be in touch with your wants and aspirations, you can show up for others better.
I was recently listening to a friend's masterclass on leadership and what she said really rang true for me. She talked about the same thing, this idea of "helping people". She said that perspective is presumptuous. That "help" implies that people need you, that you're above them. She said people don't need your help, they're fine the way they are. But they want your support. I'm not claiming to be better than anyone. We all go through suffering and pain, the details are just different. I don't have all the answers to all the problems. I just know some things that other people haven't learned yet. I've also dedicated my time, energy and money to my own growth. So I'm familiar with the path that might lie ahead for people who choose it. So they may want my support, tools, and some of the insights I've gained over the years as they continue on their own journey. My commitment to my own healing and the growth I have experienced give me a valuable perspective. One filled with understanding, compassion and empathy. I want to support others through their healing process and growth. I don't have to have all the answers, I just have to be there, listen without judgement, show empathy and offer what insight I can. Being able to support people gives meaning and purpose to what I've been through. Which is also part of making myself a priority, acknowledging, owning and using my painful learning experiences for good. Sharing my story and offering support is a way to empower myself and put myself first while also caring about other people.