Putting yourself first

We are part of a culture that teaches us to put others before ourselves.  Such teaching encourages a sense of guilt if we pursue any personal goals that go against the stereotypical flow of society.  I agree that it is not right to have one’s actions harm anybody, but why is it fair to allow the suppression of your desires for the sake of facilitating another’s desires?  For example, why are many South Asian women forced to stay at home and take care of the family after marriage?  Why are you affected by the emotional blackmail by family when you try to plan a weekend night out with friends?  Why do you have time for others but no time for yourself?  The answers to all these questions lie in the worry of feeling selfish and guilty to put ourselves before others. 

On one hand, it is wonderful to experience the joy that results from helping others.  On the other hand, if the act of helping others is not accompanied by setting boundaries, then the feeling of joy can quickly turn into frustration.  Once frustration sets in, your mental and physical health suffers.  As a result, you are also unable to help others properly.  You may not realize this as you try to ignore your emotions in the face of expectations.  For example, unhappy full-time mothers are not able to bond with their children emotionally; these children, in turn, do not perform at their full potential.  Some of these mothers realize late that they have slipped into depression.  These mothers should not hesitate to request help from their spouses to take periodic breaks from the children and the family.  Also, making others dependent on you is a disservice to them.  Unless unusual or emergency circumstances dictate, it is best to teach others to help themselves.    

There are some of us who may have been lucky enough to figure this out either with life experiences or with the help of our external resources like friends.  For the rest of us, there are personal life coaches (like Lopa Sarkar, http://www.lopasarkar.com/lopasarkar.html) or life-focused workshops by entrepreneurs (like Ashima Suri, http://www.ashimasuri.com/) .  As Michel de Montaigne once said: “Lend yourself to others, but give yourself to yourself”

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