Mental Health Journal #2: Prioritize Yourself


Our society has regarded altruism in such a way that it's become awkward to assert our own needs before accommodating others'. Especially as an immigrant woman whose first language is not English, I fell even deeper into the pit of "human giver syndrome" in which my behavior often revolved around handling everything by myself and avoiding help. The even more difficult part is when other "givers" resent others for not living up to the unreasonable expectation of emptying themselves to give everything they've got.

But here's the thing I learned:
You can't run on empty.
You will not be able to drive yourself, or others, on empty.
If you think that people depend on you, then that's even more of a reason to take care of yourself first.

There's two levels to this: being empty and being on survival mode. The "emptiness" strands you in your current spot of hopelessness, and then "survival mode" kicks in.

When we operate in "survival mode", we lose the ability to be compassionate and thoughtful. There's no mental and emotional space to be kind, there's only survival. And for me, "survival mode" looked like junk meals, endless complaining sessions in an attempt to get my resentment out of my system, and disregard for others' time and feelings. I was unbearable and selfish. My negativity was contagious and wore out everyone around me as well. I also got physically sick which meant someone had to take care of me. I gave everything I got to avoid being a burden but ironically, doing so resulted in me being the most burdensome to everybody.

So to everyone who feels bad that they can't do more, please don't. If you're in a good place physically and mentally, you are already doing everyone around you a favor. 2020 has opened our eyes to the amount of work we could do to help further the cause but the cause is better off with physically and mentally healthy members. Deliberately choosing a strategy in which burnout is the result is the selfish act. Prioritizing yourself is the kind thing to do.