What do we owe ourselves?
It is a question that keeps me up at night these days. It is a question that requires stepping into and wearing for a while. It is a question with which we must check back throughout our lives because, as with everything, its answer changes.
It is hardly something I thought about in my twenties. At that time, I was consumed by being liked. I wanted to be a part of groups. I wanted to be included and invited to family and friend happenings. I wanted to feel significant.
The truth is, I still want these things: to be liked, to be included, to feel significant. But at what cost?
My habit patterns of girlhood run deep. As girls we are taught that pleasing others is one of the most important ways to feel significant. Do as teachers expect, always include everyone, don’t be too loud, too emotional, too needy, too sexy, too smart, too dark, too masculine, too anything. Stay predictable.
I had the opportunity recently to go to a conference for 4 entire days. It was earthshattering for so many reasons. I had my own rental car, my own hotel room, my own space and time. I wasn’t there trying to navigate the needs of my family, my friends, or anyone but myself.
It was not immediately that I appreciated the value of doing something alone. It is never easy to at first be alone. My old patterns crept back in more quickly than I’d like to admit. As I met people at the conference, I found myself unconsciously offering unreasonable things to gain likablity. Rides in the middle of the night, a free edit of someone’s book with time I don’t have, and more.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with kindness. But kindness and self-sacrifice are certainly not synonymous.
How much of myself have I given away for the sake of others? Woman as martyr is culturally idolized. The subtleties of this are engrained in even the savviest of feminists. How much can we give? How many can we give to? And on and on and on.
But what do we owe ourselves?
Certainly at least as much as we give to others. I would argue more. And how can we even see what we need if we spend every waking moment surrounded by others?
It is only in being alone that we can begin to see ourselves again.