Women have been taught for millennia that we must place ourselves last. Our family, which comprises our spouse and our children, comes first. Next, we must place our parents’ wellbeing before us. In both western and eastern cultures and customs, women have been the primary caretakers and healthcare providers of their families.
In short, we place our families’ wellbeing above ours, oftentimes more than what we can bear.
You must choose to love yourself first and foremost, because when you’re healthy and well taken care of, you can be more productive and appreciative of the world around you, including your families and relatives.
This doesn’t mean you should neglect your families and relatives. What I’m saying is it’s time for you to wake up and realize that there are so many things that you can savor and you don’t need to feel “guilty” whenever you’re in that “self-loving” mode. And by “self-loving,” I’m referring to your capacity in increasing abilities qualitatively and quantitatively.
We only live once, if we do it right, once is enough. Hollywood siren Mae West once said so.
As an individual, you are a person with physical, emotional, psychological, mental, and spiritual attributes. Have you nurtured each of those attributes to the fullest?
Can you run on the treadmill for 60 minutes nonstop without feeling out of breath? Can you maintain a joyful demeanor despite any hardship that comes your way? Can you feel at peace in any weather? How well do you cook? How many books have you read? What do you know about the universe? Do you know what the limits of the human brain are?
It’s easier said than done, of course. But having more and better knowledge and skills is possible and must be done before it’s too late. Before you’ve turned into not more than a drone who was programmed to care for others, but not yourself.
After all, a human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.
Specialization is for insects. Author and philosopher Robert A. Heinlein once said.
Of course, in countries like Indonesia where there are live-in helpers, wives and mothers can delegate their responsibilities to nannies, maids, and drivers. But deep down inside, it’s a wife’s and a mother’s so-called “duty” to ensure that her family members are well fed and well taken care of. And if things go wrong, the society tends to blame the wife, not the husband. The culture of “victimizing” women is alive and kicking.
Some may call it a woman’s “nature” to care about others; others think that the society has been “programming” women for certain roles and tasks. Whichever it is, we as individuals have a choice whether we need to conform and follow the pathway paved for us or to pave our own paths. And as a free individual with free will, you have the right to be yourself.
By realizing that you must love yourself first and foremost, you reserve some energy needed for your own future.
Your future isn’t determined by how well your kids’ grades are and how your husbands excel at work. Your future doesn’t depend on your relatives’ happiness and contentment. Your future as a person depends on your own contribution to the world, other than to your own families and relatives. And your future depends on how much you enjoy the world as an individual, not merely as a group or a family.
Spend some time alone every single day and be grateful for it.
As a human being, you have a legacy for others to inherit. And it is better be something that you can do very well. If you haven’t thought about what you can do for yourself that you can easily contribute to the world, it’s time to think over and make the decision.
First things first, you’d need to understand your assets. I’m not talking about how many zeros you have in your bank account. Take Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory Test to better understand your potentials and strengths. My type is suitable for being a lawyer, an investigator, an author and a scientist. So I know that I’m on the right path. Find out about yours and see whether your passion fits your personality inventory. And see whether you have other options to consider.
Second, equip yourself with a strong view about the world in general and where you stand as an individual and a person from certain backgrounds, experiences, and gender. It is important to realize and internalize that there are universal values that apply without any reservation, despite your religious affiliation or political view. Recognize the views and values. Be brave enough to learn from world leaders and those who lead in the fields that you admire.
Third, realize that you own your body, mind, and soul. No other human beings own your, not even your husband, child, or parent. You love them, but they don’t own you. And vice versa.
At last, the past doesn’t define who you are. You are what you are now and in the future.
About Jennie M. Xue
Jennie is an award-winning author and columnist based in Northern California. Her virtual home is JennieXue.com.