Helping others before helping yourself is not helping others. Think of taking a flight. You’re on the plane and getting ready for takeoff. The flight attendant starts reviewing the safety protocols. The oxygen mask is displayed and explained. You hear, “Be sure to secure your own mask before helping another.” Makes sense, right? If you pass out, you can’t help the person next to you too well.
It’s the same for any aspect of life. We can’t help others if we’re barely hanging on ourselves. Denial doesn’t make it go away either. Here’s another example…
A Fraying Rope
Imagine you’re a rock climber. Your rope is frayed and your anchor loose. You feel you can manage though. Climbing isn’t new to you and you can handle it. Then, you notice someone near you is losing grip and increasingly exhausted. You want to help and move in that direction. With a servant’s heart, you can’t help yourself, but you’re forgetting something crucial. Your rope is frayed and your anchor loose. You’ve been just managing for yourself, and now you’re about to pull extra weight to help someone else. Experienced climbers, and the general public, could see this isn’t a good idea.
Now put this into an everyday perspective. If a person is barely hanging on inside themselves, they can’t help others and expect their proverbial ‘rope’ to hold. It’s important to do a self check on a regular basis for this very reason. Being strong on the inside doesn’t mean ‘dealing with it.’ Rather, it means addressing your troubles until they’re not troubling anymore. It means making yourself right so you can help others more effectively. This is constant because, well, life keeps happening! We need to continuously self-check and address our own troubles on the regular.
Don’t Ignore Trouble
Ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away; it makes them fester. That frayed rope will continue to split. The loose anchor will continue to slip. Eventually, things will let go. The person you’re trying to lift up may be part of the fallout. You certainly don’t want that. So what can you do to self-check?
Take a breath, every, single, day. Always have a moment to check in with yourself whether it’s first thing in the morning or before your head hits the pillow or sometime in between. Ask yourself, How am I doing? How do I feel? Be honest. If anything is off, figure out what to do or who to ask for help. Sometimes, the best therapy might be chatting with a friend, even venting. It’s okay to do that. If something deeper presents, that second party will notice. Listen! Someone else may be able to see what you’re missing or ignoring. No harm comes from addressing small issues but much harm comes from ignoring big ones. Take no chances; you’re worth the self-check!
When we ‘put the mask on’ ourselves first, we become stronger anchors to those around us who need us. We also learn to recognize the same need in others as we relate and understand better. We grow in patience for others and for ourselves. Internal conflict hides better when it’s ignored for longer. Don’t let it escape your surveillance. Catch it now. Self-check.