- learn to do things for yourself
That is another of those lines from the little book of Instant Karma that I quoted in a post a while back. This line caught my eye this morning, and it occurred to me that it might be interpreted two ways.
One way of reading that phrase is something that many of us, probably most of us, have difficulty doing ... taking care of one's self, doing nice things for one's self, being OK with self-gratification. Our society is still based these days in much of the Puritanical system from centuries ago when our nation was just a foundling. I know that seems odd when we have the amount of sexual freedom, unmarried cohabitation, etc., as we do. Our lifestyle is pretty hedonistic, at least on the surface. And for several feet down! But if you think about it, that underlying concept that it is not good to please one's self still runs deep. We have been so deeply trained to be focused on helping others and putting our own needs and desires aside that it is almost an innate trait with us.
To put others first is noble. I won't argue with that. However, we do so to a fault. We tend to ignore our own needs because it has been made to seem evil to put one's self ahead of others.
In my professional training we were taught the initial steps of overcoming that idea. We were told to care for ourselves because, very simply and quite accurately, we can't help others if we are damaged or sick or exhausted ourselves. I believe that, but it doesn't begin to overturn the age-old threads of turning everything outward.
If you recall, I bought myself an easel the other day. Self-indulgence, for sure. I didn't need it, at least not right now. But it felt awfully good. And I try to be sure that I have some "me time" every day. Now, I live alone, so I have lots of "me time," or one wold assume, but if I don't take a block of time and make it specifically for quiet introspection and self-stroking, that alone time turns into TV time or cleaning time or I call someone else to see how they are doing in their personal struggles. Yes, I still do those things, but not during the designated "me time." I'm also trying to get better about asking myself some of the questions that I ask others to support them. So I care for me. But not without some angst in the process, because I have to fight against the urges to be "doing something," or putting that energy into someone else. That is just the way we are.
I've come to recognize that some people who are self-indulgent, especially to a fault, attempt to rationalize it away. They become defensive about the lifestyle of self-indulgence. The biggest problem is that we haven't learned how to balance self-indulgence with indulging others. We seem to be at one extreme or the other, and we're feeling some degree of guilt if partaking of the former, or a pious indignity if the latter. I'm working on my own balance of self and other. I think I'm doing OK, but I'm not sure how other see it. Not sure it matters what others see, but there you have it .... that old innateness lives in my innermost self and I feel a bit guilty when I put me first.
The second way of reading that line is something I've had a crash course in over the past couple years. I'm referring to learning new skills, things I didn't need to do before because there was always someone else on that task. The thing is that the joy and sense of accomplishment I got with each newly completed success was amazing ... and self-stroking! Knowing that I have learned how to do something for myself was/is very empowering, and gives me a much more comfortable space in which I live. I have more ownership with each of these self-assuring steps, ownership of my surroundings, my emotional status, my place in society. My self-worth goes up. Again, this relates back to the old ethics of my ancestors, specifically in the area of "work ethic."
Every new hands-on skill I've tackled has encouraged me and given me a greater sense of control in my life. I have a better feeling for who I am, how I want to relate to others, and most of the time, I feel more confident in my relationships. I am less at risk for being taken advantage of in dealing with contractors, because I have enough understanding to know if I'm getting a good deal.
So learning to do things for myself is invaluable in making my life better in both interpretations. Whether it means taking care of my physical needs or the more aesthetic needs, it behooves me to learn. So tell me ... did you have a different take on any of that? What does it mean to you?