Friday, April 4, 2008

Pay Yourself First

I have lived my life caring more about what others want and will think then caring about what I really, really want. In fact, the act of simply turning inward and answering the question, “What do you want?” still feels new and a bit awkward, even though I’ve been practicing on some level for a number of years now. But the more I do it, the more I realize how good it feels and the simpler it makes life.

I could analyze forward and backward why I have a need to please and put others needs and desires (often times assumed needs or desires on my part) above my own, but does it really matter? What really matters is that I have the awareness and with that awareness I can see different choices and take different actions.

Who we are at our core is a person—actually a soul—who knows who we are, what we stand for, what we enjoy and who loves living life fully as a way of uncovering more and more preferences along the way. However, even before we are born we are taught about all that limits us. Our parents have their own fears, expectations and beliefs that are laid out for us to absorb as our own. Over time (and it doesn’t take that long) the pure, limitless core that we are is layered with other people’s crap. From society, the media, our teachers, our parents and friends we are told how the world works and how we are expected to operate in that world. And at the same time we are told, “Be yourself. Be unique.” What conflicting things we are told…

I can remember having a conversation with my mother when I was probably in high school or early college about the difference between being ‘self-less’ and ‘self-ish’. I had been told by one parent that being ‘self-less’ “like Jesus Christ” was what we were to do. I had been shown, by the other parent, that being ‘self-ish’ (as in, do what you want to do and makes you happy) was acceptable.

Didn’t I just get done saying why I had a need to please didn’t matter? Well, it doesn’t really matter, but I share the earlier point to highlight just one of the many ways I received conflicting information while growing up.

And here’s the reason I am writing this post. You’ve heard the concept of “paying yourself first” when it comes to finances, right? The idea is that when you get paid, you should first put money towards your own needs and desires before you pay everyone else you owe.

How about ‘paying yourself first’ in all areas of your life? There are definitely times you need to give to others. If your kid is sick, they need you no matter what. If there is a crisis or tragedy in your family or community, you may feel strongly compelled to put others needs before your own. But what about the little, rather insignificant moments in your life?

When my husband asks where I want to go to dinner, can I stop in that moment and really allow myself to have and speak a preference? If I want to go out with some girlfriends for a drink, but am concerned about leaving my husband on his own with the kids, can I push beyond that concern and still do what I want to do? If someone invites me to something that I really don’t have an interest in doing, can I simply and respectfully decline instead of operating from a place of obligation or ‘shoulds’? If I know I want to go to the gym because I’ll feel better afterwards, can I put that desire ahead of going to the park right then with the family?

Can I first check in with myself, in any situation or moment, and ask “what do you really want?” before asking everyone else?

I still hear the words, “you are being self-ish” in the back of head with each of these simple situations, but at my core I know that ‘paying myself first’ means I’ll have more to give to others along the way.

I know myself too well to know that I’ll always care (at least just a little bit) what others think and will probably often take others needs and wants into consideration. However, my commitment and gift to myself is to not put those needs and wants of others always above my own.

What about you?

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