In a world that often emphasises the importance of self-care, a profound shift in perspective invites us to explore the idea that caring for oneself can blend harmoniously with caring for others. Beyond the conventional narratives of spa days and meditation lies a transformative concept that recognises the interconnectedness of our wellbeing with the wellbeing of those around us. Is it possible that the path to self-discovery and fulfilment is closely linked with acts of compassion and support for others? Can taking care of yourself also mean caring for the people around you?
I have faced really hard times in my life, but I have never gone through them alone. I reached out to people, called or messaged them, and sometimes they were there for me without me even asking. Now, what if everyone I reached out to was unavailable because of my contagious negative energy, or because they thought that I should figure things out on my own? Could I have succeeded alone? Perhaps, but it would have taken much longer and would have been way harder.
Years ago, as a single mum, running my business and taking care of my kids by myself felt incredibly challenging. Out of nowhere, I got a call: “Hey M, I’ve got a month off, and I want to come help you with the kids!” Tears welled up in my eyes. “You supported me and my family years ago, and I haven’t forgotten,” she continued. I did not remember how, but I couldn’t refuse her help. What matters is that TOGETHER meant EASIER for me. Not just easier, it also made the world a more beautiful place – colleagues of a generation joining hands, thinking beyond individual interests in favour of a collective “us”.
Yes, I have seen positive results by setting boundaries with toxic people, stress, and overworking. But beyond that, when it comes to others, I have always been there for those in need, and I consciously choose so. In fact, I have made a job out of it. I know, I know, I’ve heard it all – “Be careful not to fall into the saviour role, not to disable the other person, not to get ‘dirty’ with their negative energy, you must protect yourself, prioritise yourself.” Self-oriented thinking: I find it positive up to a point, then, like alcohol, it becomes addictive. You start focusing solely on yourself.
I increasingly see this type of thinking, seemingly in control, but a closer look reveals individuals with high walls around them; you can’t get close. Depression and anxiety skyrocket because they might not feel comfortable asking for support or they’re used to ‘fixing’ their emotions alone (often with the support of various addictions).
Logotherapy states that happiness doesn’t come from self-actualisation (becoming the best version of yourself) but from finding something important, something meaningful to give your existence purpose. And what could be more uplifting than being there for others when they need you, without fearing of depletion or burnout but with love?
Victor Frankl compares self-realisation to happiness. Aim for it, and you’ll miss it. Self-realisation, like happiness, is not the goal but the result of doing something significant. By dedicating yourself to a cause or loving another human being, you become fully human. (See The Will to Meaning and Man’s Search for Meaning).
Frankl uses the metaphor of a mosaic – just as a stone shows its value by its place in the mosaic, each person finds their value and identity within the community. The community is incomplete when it doesn’t appreciate the individuals within it.
Small things you can do to make a difference around you:
Take time to appreciate the positive qualities and actions of those around you.
Practice active listening when someone is sharing their thoughts or feelings. Show genuine interest, ask questions, and make them feel heard and understood.
Random Acts of Kindness
Engage in small acts of kindness, such as leaving a thoughtful note, offering help, or surprising someone with a gesture of goodwill. These actions not only benefit others but also contribute to your own sense of fulfillment.
Create a Support Network
Build a network of friends, family, or colleagues with whom you can share your thoughts and feelings. Having a support system can be essential for both your wellbeing and theirs.
Share Your Skills
Offer your skills and knowledge to help others. Whether it’s teaching a new skill, providing guidance, or assisting with tasks, sharing your abilities can be rewarding for both you and those you help.
Nurture your social connections by spending quality time with friends and loved ones. Engage in social activities that bring joy and a sense of belonging.
The Dalai Lama once said, “Our main purpose in life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is known for promoting love and understanding, said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
This reminds us that even small acts of kindness, when added up, can make a big impact on the world, revealing that looking out for ourselves and caring for others go hand in hand.
Balancing how much I nourish myself and how much I give to others seems to be the right formula for me. How about you?