The past few weeks, months… I feel as if a part of me has always been hiding behind the screen, keeping just out of sight, panicking when I felt someone get a little too close.
What part of me? The part that cared about no one but myself. The part that put nothing and no one above my own survival and ability to thrive in the situation. That part of me has been pushed into a box and stuffed away ever since last August.
When my grandpa was diagnosed with cancer. When I started a relationship. When I entered graduate school. When I began having to schedule time for my friends rather than being able to just decide to go out on a whim.
When everything around me seemed to demand that I care more about other people than myself.
So I stuck the part of me that wanted to take care of myself, to invest time and resources on good things which benefited no one but myself into a box. Why?
Because I fear, above all else, being seen as being selfish. Why do I do that? Because society tells us to be selfless, to love the other person more than you love yourself. That your worth is what you can do for other people, not what you can do for yourself. People who climb the social ladder to further themselves socially, professionally.. they’re painted as being cut throat, bitchy, hard. People who give the shirt off their backs, who share what they have and ask nothing in return are shouted from the mountain tops as being someone worth emulating (though they are, in turn, called soft and easy to manipulate, door mats, etc. as well. There are two sides to every coin).
I wanted to be one of those people who gave everything to everyone else. That’s how the people who are the biggest influences in my life are. I wanted to be just like them. So when things happened that mattered to no one but me (break up? Diet flop? Bad test grade?) I just kind of bottled it up as much as I could and only let a few people see a little bit of it, because I didn’t want to be… selfish.
Yesterday, a friend of mine asked if I could come pick her up from a doctor’s office and bring her home because they wanted to do a minor test that would leave her unable to drive herself — But only if it didn’t bother me, or take me out of my way. I know that she’s terrified of pain and doctor’s and I could hear the anxiety in her voice, so I asked if she would like me to come up and do more than just pick her up, to hold her hand, to make sure she’s okay, and I got the same “I don’t want to bother you” speech, because she didn’t want to be any trouble. I went up and sat with her, made sure she ate lunch, and got her home safely. I also granted her doctor the knowledge that she snorts when she laughs really hard about something.
That’s me. The person who didn’t want to be any trouble. I was perfectly willing to be there for my friend. I’m more than happy to go out of my way and take the time to do that, but driving myself home it hit me that I would have used the same terminology. I probably wouldn’t have even called anyone, wouldn’t have asked them to help me. I would have refused the drugs and taken the hit full pain force to make sure I could drive home.
Because I didn’t want to seem selfish asking someone to help me.
Asking for help isn’t selfish. Taking care of myself, choosing to invest my time in myself rather than others isn’t selfish. Beyond getting into graduate school and focusing the minimum of my time on it, investing the majority of my time in my studies is not selfish. If that means that time I would have with other people, for other people, gets cut because I refuse to cut the time I need outside of my studies to take care of myself, then so be it.
I don’t want to hide behind my fear of being seen as selfish. I don’t want to be seen as someone who “lets herself go.” I want to be able to be proud of myself, my care of myself, rather than feeling ashamed if I want to make a big deal out of my birthday, my good grades, my stress over school. It may not have anything to do with the people I’m ranting to, but if I matter to them, it will matter to them. I don’t expect them to care as deeply as I do, but I don’t need to hide that part of myself from them either.
I am worthy of being selfish. Not just occasionally. Constantly. Every day, I vow to do something a little selfish. To take time for no one but myself.
Giving to others is part of who I am. I do what I can, and I want to be there for people when they need me, like when they face a doctor’s appointment and they’re scared. When they need a ride and I’m going vaguely in their direction. All of those times when I’m happy to go above and beyond.
But I shouldn’t avoid the times when I need to go above and beyond for myself, either.