Don't get me wrong, I love giving, and there are many causes that I volunteer with and find them fulfilling. However, I have also come to realize that tirelessly sacrificing and forgetting about my self-care and personal truth is not a righteous deed, because others suffer too. Here are a couple of examples in my life that have taught me to think about how I spend my time and how to determine the best way to invest my energy.
On occasion, we may do these things because we don’t want to let someone down or we are concerned about what someone will say or think about us and we want to meet their expectations.
What comes to mind for me is all of the years I spent pursuing a business management degree because my father thought it was the best thing for me to do. Sure I learned a lot, but I was miserable. I wanted to make him proud. Pleasing someone else (not only my dad) was my focus for a great chunk of my life. Yet when I was about three quarters of the way “done”, I realized I couldn’t do it anymore, it just wasn’t satisfying. I had to make some decisions for ME, so I decided to stop and take an internal look to seek and find what I really wanted to do.
Was my dad pleased? No, not really, but in the whole grand scheme of my life’s skyline does my dad need to be happy with the work I do for me to be fulfilled? The answer was “no”, and that is when I realized that my father’s pride in my career has nothing to do with me living out my life’s purpose. I have had to remind myself of this many times throughout my life.
On other occasions we do things even when we do not have the time to give. We justify our activity by saying, “If I don’t take on this monumental task, who will? They need me!” Okay, so it might not sound just like that, but in some shape or form of it, we have a tendency to believe this. We fail to see how doing an activity from a place of obligation prohibits us from being fully productive and generating results that are possible. Hey, it may also steal the blessing that another might gain from doing the activity with a willing heart because they truly have the time to invest!
Years ago, I also took on a heroic deed (or so I thought). I had an infant, I was trying to be a wife, I was working a job where I traveled 80% of the time (and I was also pursuing that damn business management degree), AND I took on being the choir president at my church. What was I thinking? Oh, yeah, “they need me!” Ugh!!!! I look back and see how egotistical I was being. I also know many others in our choir could have taken on this role and done a beautiful job AND enjoyed it. Anyone with more time and a willing heart would have done a better job and they would have made fewer mistakes than I did. I needed to recognize that it was not my place to be the “hero”.
As I’ve grown wiser <smile>, I have learned to go within before taking on a task that requires commitments of time, emotion and/or resources. If I feel an internal tousling (stress, worry or things just not working) I examine why and then decide if that is the best way to spend my time. I also find that I have to examine why my heart jumps at the chance to do something…as this too can be my ego saying, “They NEED me!”
Simply stated, there are tasks that bring rewards and make the world a better place. As individuals we cannot save the entire world, it takes all of us. It is however, important to assess what we take on, lest we burn our candle at both ends and end up feeling spent and resentful (and quite possibly physically sick) in the end.