I have written before about how taking care of yourself, which can be viewed as selfish, is actually self-less if viewed properly. By investing time and money in improving your health and well-being, you actually become better for those you serve, care for, or work for. It makes sense to take breaks, schedule time for fun, and treat yourself from time to time to help re-energize, recuperate, rest, and refocus. You’ll return to the grind with a renewed sense of purpose, more excitement, and increased energy, allowing you to perform better, serve more, be more patient, and avoid burnout.
All that being said, there’s a slippery slope between taking care of yourself and becoming self-absorbed. It is very easy to become consumed with our own goals, our own stories, and our own problems. So I want to remind you to take time to make sure that you aren’t so wrapped up in what’s wrong with your life that the energy and focus of that self-concern and/or self-pity isn’t contributing to the very problems that are bringing you down.
There is a trend occurring in which people are becoming very focused on number one… themselves. Everything revolves around me. How does it affect me? What’s in it for me? What about me? This can be understandable to a degree, especially since the economy took a dive in 2008, and people were threatened with the loss of their savings, jobs, homes, and sense of security and stability as they knew it. We are wired to react, adapt, and survive. I believe that a shift took place for many people where they innately began to look out for themselves.
Focusing on yourself too much is destructive. Google the words self-help and you’ll see over one hundred million results. Type in self-help on Amazon and you’ll see over eight hundred thousand results. All of the emphasis on helping yourself could lead to obsessing about what is wrong with you and your life, leading to lower self-esteem, bigger problems, and being stuck in the problem rather than actually finding a solution.
If you are full-blown giver and do nothing for yourself, then you need to take a break and focus on caring for yourself and your own needs. But if you are consumed with your problems and spend a good part of the day loathing about how bad you feel, how little money you have, how much you hate your job, or how lousy the weather is, then take a break from it and focus on helping others. It could be the fastest way out of your funk and onto a path of recovery.
I heard Zig Ziglar speak once where he said, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” There is something very powerful, almost magical, about those words. I encourage you to think about that statement and really consider it.
The moment you stop focusing on yourself and all your problems could be the very moment when those problems start to disappear, or at least become much smaller. You’ve likely heard that what you focus on grows. I believe the attention given to these problems does give them the fuel to remain there, and even make them bigger over time.
I can hear some of the more critical types argue that they must focus on their problems, or else they’ll never get solved. I’m not saying to ignore your problems. I’m saying stop dwelling on them. And better yet, stop focusing on the problems, and at least start focusing on solutions. But, for the time being, I want you to put more attention on helping others. Take all that energy and time you spend moping around, whining, and repeating the same sad story to yourself and anyone who will listen, and put it into a cause bigger than yourself. Jump into helping someone or some cause.
In a paper that reviewed forty studies on the link between volunteering and health, Dr. Suzanne Richards from the University of Exeter Medical School found that “volunteering is associated with lower depression, increased well-being, and a 22% reduction in the later risk of dying.”
I’m not suggesting giving up on yourself, ignoring your needs, or avoiding taking steps to address a pressing health issue, but would suggest taking a break from dwelling on your issues and instead focusing on the needs of someone else. You’ll likely find that it helps those other people AND helps you.