A good friend of mine reached out to me recently. She looked worn and tired. There were dark bags under her eyes and her tone of voice showed signs of extreme stress. She has been going all out to care for her children, husband and in-laws during these tough times. It is clear that she has done so at the expense of her own mental, emotional and physical health.
My advice to her is that she cannot give an empty cup
If she is trying to pour someone a drink out of a container that has nothing in it, how is that person going to quench his or her thirst? Of course, they are not! She has got nothing to give and the other person is getting nothing in return. Yet there are many people out there who are squeezing every last bit of energy and juice that they have to give someone else, leaving themselves with literally nothing left in the tank.
In addition, not caring for yourself puts you in a bad mood. And when your mood is off, you are no good to anyone else especially the ones you love and cherish. Your emotional tenor affects the people around you. If you have not taken any energy to make sure you are taken care of before you make sure everyone else has been taken care of, you are not going to help them very much. Plus you may put them in a bad mood too!
I know some people who say that suffering is good. No pain no gain. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. They think that mental toughness is all about suffering. Yes, there have been times in history when martyrs became saints and were applauded for their sacrifices. But it was usually after their death!
Suffering by itself does not get you anything
Of course, challenges in life are inevitable. The problem is, somewhere along the way, many people have gotten the message that the more they struggle and the more they suffer, the more valuable they will become and the more successful they will eventually be.
So, they overwork, overschedule and become busier than ever because they think there is a prize of some sort on the other side of pain they cause to themselves. And then they find that there is no prize. All they get is suffering and more suffering. No one is giving them a medal for being the most hardworking, the most over-giving and the most emotionally starved person in the community. They think suffering is a badge of honour they can show to the world.
We must understand that exhaustion, stress and burnout do not result in progress. In order for us to give, help and support others, we must operate as our best selves in this lifetime.
Your best self cannot shine through if you are constantly burdened by putting others before yourself. Your best self sleeps well and takes time out. Your best self does the best work when he or she is nourished, exercises and spends time on him or herself. Your magnum opus will be far more likely to emerge if you are in prime mental, physical and emotional state. Start taking care of yourself to shine for others.