Sometimes it’s hard to choose you. For some reason, so many of us have grown up thinking that putting ourselves first or on the same playing field as others is selfish. Somehow we’ve been indoctrinated into the belief that everyone else matters more than we do, that work relationships mean we ‘should’ suffer, that we must ‘bend’ to what others need and that we put our feelings aside to make others feel better. Why on earth were we ever taught to think we matter any less than anyone else?
The airlines remind us of this every time we step on a plane – they do it in a way that, in flying, means the most – a safety check. Aside from knowing where the exit rows and those life jackets are, they remind us daily that we can’t possibly take care of anyone else if we don’t take care of ourselves first. Be it our spouse, lover, partner, child, best friend or comfort animal, if we don’t pop on that breathing apparatus first there’s not a shot that we’ll be able to get theirs on them. If that isn’t a metaphor – I don’t know what is.
Somehow between take off and landing we forget. Somehow we continue to change our plans for someone else’s benefit, stay in jobs longer than we want to, go places we’d rather not in order not to disappoint someone or listen (insanely) to those pesky ‘shoulds’. Ugh, those ‘shoulds’! Those ‘shoulds’ that others don’t even recognize they’re saying or realize the damage of the impact. Those ‘shoulds’ that get under our skin, rattle around in our brains and for some insane reason, if we’re on the cusp of one way or another thinking, those ridiculous ‘shoulds’ tend to flip us in the direction that make our authentic selves scream. Whether it’s about trying to choose to curate a community of like minded tribe-members, plopping ourselves in spaces filled only with those who act in their authentic selves or spending time in the company of the Dalai Lama (whose positive energy and infectious, giggling laughter reigns supreme) – I don’t know. But I do know something needs to change. How do we remind ourselves that choosing us is not only okay, but critical to our development, vital to our livelihood, fundamental to our personal growth and essential for others to witness.
The world is made up of all sorts of different people and at one point or another many of our paths will cross. Once we become of age to choose our own directions, have our own thoughts, manage our own decisions and make our own choices – it’s imperative to do exactly that. Choosing you matters! While it seems that it’s putting yourself first, all it’s actually doing is giving the same credit, leg up, attention and access you’d give to others – to yourself as well. You’re saying your plans and choices matter even if they’re different than others. You’re saying that society nor others dictate your beliefs or actions. No one is saying to on purpose choose or attempt to hurt any other human (emotionally, mentally, physically or otherwise), but to put yourself last because you believe all others go first – no more, that can no longer be a thing.
Last week I had the privilege of hearing Maria Shriver speak about her new book, I’ve Been Thinking…:Reflections, Prayers and Meditations for a Meaningful Life. To the students running the interview, other students in the gymnasium and the rest of the guests, she reiterated the significance of knowing yourself, trusting that you have the right to speak your mind and feeling comfortable to take whatever pause you need to be your best self. Slowing down, speaking up, taking your time, figuring out what works and not only knowing what you need but not being afraid to ask for it – this is choosing you.
A Facebook friend is choosing a hard to keep healthy lifestyle because it makes her feel better. Another is taking every morning to write and express herself prior to heading to a full day of lawyering and motherhood. And tons more are choosing exercise programs, meditation retreats, yoga sessions, self-care and time spent with loved ones over focusing on work, obligations and places someone else thinks they ‘should be’. Be true to yourself and let the you you want to be have an equal shot at success. Whether it’s a choice to bring your own lunch when everyone else is going out, to spend a cultural holiday on the slopes instead of around the dinner table, to lounge in your pajamas when it seems the entire world is out partying or to spend a Saturday morning doing what makes you most happy even if you spend it alone – be you, be proud, be easy and know you matter. ‘Be you…..the world will adjust’ – it without question, will.