43. Love Yourself First

Good morning and welcome to your forty-third meditation. Let’s say you think of yourself as a good person. You have a desire to help others. You’re kind, patient, understanding. But sometimes you feel like embodying these qualities gets you into trouble. You feel like you get taken advantage of, like people don’t value your time, you miss out on opportunities because you put others before yourself. You find yourself feeling a bit bitter and jaded, thinking “what kind of world do we live in if trying your best to be a good person leaves you worse off?” Meanwhile you witness people with questionable ethics, to put it mildly, rise to the top of society and seemingly get everything they want through sheer force, pushiness, and lack of consideration for anyone else’s desires but their own. Sometimes it can feel like being a good person precludes being ambitious; and vice versa. And, unfortunately, it’s true that our capitalist society often rewards pushy, inconsiderate, ambitiousness. Definitely. But these distasteful qualities are not a prerequisite for success in this world. And there are ways to be good while not being walked over; ways to assert yourself without compromising your determination to be good. Sometimes it does take some tweaking of classic ideas of what it means to be a good person though. For example, we have all heard that we should put others before ourselves. Of course, this axiom means well. It’s trying to say that if we all take care of each other then everyone will be better off. And who couldn’t agree with that? However, it’s only possible to take care of others if you have taken care of yourself first. If you are embittered by feeling taken advantage of, how do you expect to spread positive energy? You have to love yourself first, and then go forth and share that love with others. A very simple and concrete analogy is the oxygen masks on airplanes. They always say that if you are with a child or dependent, it is necessary that you put your own mask on first, before helping the child with theirs. This is because if you become incapacitated by lack of oxygen, who will help the child? Think of your goodness this way. Be good to yourself first, and then you will be equipped to be the person you want to be for others. To do this we have to establish our boundaries with ourselves, and then with others. How much time do you need to do what you need to get done? How much time do you need to just relax? Answer that for yourself, and be very strict with not allowing anyone else to encroach on that time. What are your skills? Are people asking to exploit them without offering fair compensation? Remember that you have to respect the value of your own skills if you want to expect others to do so. This is true whether you are dealing with strangers or loved ones. Know your worth, and charge it. To do this is not evil, or greedy, or particularly capitalistic. The exchange doesn’t even have to be monetary. There just has to be an acknowledgement of your value, first from yourself, that is then reflected by the other party. Once more, it is only by loving yourself that you will truly be able to love others. So set an example. Demonstrate how you want to be loved by loving yourself that way. Others will follow suit, and you will be full of love to share as a result. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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