Do you feel as if you live a really privileged life? And as a result of that privilege, do you feel you should be contributing more to the world? Are you a deeply compassionate person that feels you can help others who don’t seem to be able to help themselves?
Every client I have ever coached, including myself, hooks into this story at some point. And for many it is the mantra we use to deny ourselves the time, love and compassion so many of us require to truly make the difference in the world we so deeply crave to make.
No matter how under-privileged they have in fact been, no matter what hardships, or trauma or tragedy they have endured, human beings seem to have a common thread that there is always someone who is worse off than them and whose story is more worthy of love, care and compassion than their own. You may even be thinking right now I haven’t ever really experienced trauma. Really? Is that true?
So here’s the thing. The blatantly obvious thing you might think.
You need to put on your own oxygen mask when the plane is going down, before assisting children and other passengers.
Why? Because if you don’t put on your oxygen mask, you won’t be assisting anyone else for very long.
And here’s another thing – challenges, discomfort, anxiety, trauma and tragedy are relative to YOUR specific circumstances and journey. We cannot quantify one person’s experience over another. We all experience life, and each of those experiences are valid and true to where each of us are in our journey.
So whether it is a fear of heights, or a feeling of never being good enough, if that is your story, it is your responsibility to heal the parts of you that are broken or less than whole.
But surely a broken thumb is not as bad as a broken arm? Or a broken back?
Really? Are they not both broken? Can you heal others if you cannot even heal yourself? Maybe for a little while – but eventually reality will catch up. And of course, we are speaking metaphorically. This applies to grief, underlying fears of inadequacy, prejudice and every other human condition we prefer to sweep into the emotional black-hole.
Yes we can have compassion and empathy for others. But often this compassion and empathy for others is used to diminish our own experiences and to “put them in perspective”. It is almost always used as a tool to make us feel better about the really bad decisions we make. And it can go ever further, and make us operate from a place of self-righteousness, as if we are helping others, we clearly don’t need any help ourselves, do we now.
No I shouldn’t buy myself nice things, because there are so many people who have nothing. No I shouldn’t wallow in my grief, there are people who have suffered greater loss than me and have gotten on with it. I should be thankful for my job, no-matter how much I hate it, because the employment rate is so bad and I should be thankful I at least have a job. This leads us to the Karpman Drama Triangle. But more on that another time.
Do you think Richard Branson thinks like this? No.
And who is making a greater impact in the world? You or Richard Branson? One of the clearest messages that come from reading Richard Branson’s books is that he is extremely good at taking care of his own needs. Something he was taught from a very young age. And as a result, he has grown an empire, which has enabled him to take care of other’s needs in a very significant way.
One of my favourite things about being a coach, is I simply cannot coach others, if I haven’t done the hard graft of taking care of myself first. Being a coach ensures that I am at all times mindful of my own stuff going on, my own triggers, what it is that is holding me back, and where I need to shine a little more light in my own life. I need to take care of my own emotional needs, boundaries and energy before I can hold a safe space for you to do the same for yourself.
The same goes for you. Yes you can help others. By all means. But are you actually equipped to help others? Have you done your own internal work? And why are you wanting to help others? Is it from a place of groundedness? Or is it from a broken place. A place where you are actually seeking validation because you haven’t done the work to validate yourself from within?
World-care starts with self-care. Wouldn’t you agree?