I’ve been thinking about self-care and service a lot lately. I’ve been trying to figure out how they go together and why we need both of them. In thinking about this, I have been a little confused about the “give, give, give. Give your all in service to others” concept. To me that kind of teaches that everyone else is more important and deserves more than you. It makes us feel like our needs don’t matter and that we are supposed to just take care of everyone else and just serve others to death, at the expense of our own energy and needs. And I think that kind of breeds victim and martyrdom feelings. And also, are you even able to give high quality and meaningful service if you are so burnt out? If you are not important or deserving, but everyone else supposedly is, then how can you give love? If we don’t love ourselves, do we really feel that we can give love to others?
I’ve been thinking about how this balances with the concept of putting on your oxygen mask first.
“As I’ve flown, I’ve noted as we commence to take off from the airport, a flight attendant will arise and among other things will say, “Now, if we lose air pressure in the cabin, an oxygen mask will descend from overhead. If you’re caring for young children or someone with a disability, make sure you put on your own oxygen mask before you try to help others.” Why would the flight attendant say that? Obviously, if you’re unconscious, you can’t help anyone else. So it is with our service to humankind and our service in the Church and in our professions. If we don’t strengthen ourselves, we will never be in a position to strengthen others.” *source
I fully believe in taking time for ourselves. I love my self-care time. I feel like it is vital for my sanity and I’m also passionate about personal growth.
“President Hinckley has also taught that we have a fourfold responsibility—to our families, to our employers, to the Lord, and to ourselves. He has counseled us to “take some time to do a little meditating, to do a little exercise.” *source
Photo by kosal ley on Unsplash
But I also feel like “too much” self-care can become selfish, or at least too much self-care with the wrong focus. So here’s what I’ve been learning as I contemplate all of this…
Self-care is not about me – not in a selfish “I deserve this. I have been taking care of all you people so I need a break and time to myself” kind of way. I think there is some truth in that statement, but not all the way (which is how Satan works, right? Mixes in some truth with some lies). Self-care is about taking the time to fill your cup so that you have some to give. It is really about being able to give back to those around you with abundance.
I think that another way that Satan tries to lie about self-care is he likes to make us feel like we deserve time to ourselves. We deserve a break. And while, yes, I do feel like downtime and relaxation is necessary and healthy, I feel like Satan has twisted this and turned this downtime and relaxation time into selfishness and idleness time. Watching a (wholesome) TV show here and there, I think that’s fine. It can be a way to decompress after a long day, to just be entertained for a bit and enjoy life, or to bond with a friend or family member. But binge watching shows on netflix? Is that really wholesome self-care? In my opinion, no. Of course, the content of the show might make a difference here, but in general I feel that it’s idleness.
Self-care is definitely required and necessary and healthy. But I’m leaning towards the belief that paradoxically, the focus of our self-care should not actually be on the self. The care of self should not be the end, it should be the means to an end.
The focus should be on bettering the self for the purpose of being a better disciple of Christ – a disciple that has service and love to give to others. It’s about consecrating our performance (both the service preparation (self-care) and the service itself) to the building up of the kingdom of God and the establishment of Zion. It’s about keeping in mind who we are working for. We are working for God, not ourselves. We are on God’s team. He needs each of us to do our part in sharing goodness and light so that the people around us can come to know Him better and receive more joy. Self-care is about preparing and learning and strengthening ourselves so that when God needs us (which will be more often if we are willing and prepared), we are ready and prepared to help. We have the tools in our belt.
I’ve always been a little confused about the scripture verses that talk about if you save your life, you will lose it, but if you lose your life, you will save it. But these new thoughts (that I just discussed) have been helping me to understand those scripture verses better. I also just ran across this quote from President Monson (from the October 2009 General Conference talk “What Have I Done For Someone Today.”)
“The Savior taught His disciples, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:24). I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives.”
The purpose of life – of my life (and every other individual’s life) is to become like God and to help those around us to become like God. If we are only focused on ourselves and our own needs and we aren’t consecrating our performance to God, then we really miss out on the entire purpose of why we are alive. When you lose yourself (and focus your service on others, with the purpose of being an instrument in God’s hands), then you really find yourself because you are living your life purpose. And there is more of you to find. That last line “while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish – and in effect save their lives” stood out to me. The first thought that came to mind when I thought about growing and flourishing is “we fill the measure of our creation.”
When I was just typing out the name of that General Conference talk, the title of it stuck out to me and I felt an emphasis on the word for. “What have I done for Someone Today?” I do a lot of things everyday. I do a lot of “service” to take care of my kids and family and home. And I also do some “service” that affects other people (family, friends, neighbors, etc.) But how much of that service am I really doing for them? How often is my focus really on them instead of on me. The answer is that most of the time it’s not on them. Most of the time I just go through the motions and do the things that I need to do to keep everything running relatively smoothly. Or I do the service so that I can practice being more Christlike. But I don’t focus on who I am doing those things for. And I think that adversely affects not only the degree that my service impacts the one that I am serving, but also it negatively impacts my own “finding of myself.”
I also think that in consecrating our performance to God, we find evidence for God’s overflowing love for us and we come to love ourselves more as well. He wants us to fill the measure of our creation. He wants us to fulfill our purpose (which is to become like Him.) And the best way we can do that is to serve others with the focus on being an instrument in His hands. Think about what kind of ultimate and righteous self-esteem that produces when we know that God is able to use us to build up the kingdom because we are worthy and prepared. Of course, God’s love for us never changes. He loves us no matter what – no matter how good or bad we are, no matter how much or how little we serve Him (and our fellow men.) But the way we view and love ourselves definitely changes according to our actions. And serving God, and knowing that you are being an instrument in His hands to bring about His work and glory – now that is something that really gives you some high, wholesome self-esteem (of course if you stay humble about the whole thing and remember your purpose, and that it’s not about you).
Here are a couple of experiences from the past couple weeks that have made me think about all of this more…
When I was listening to Jody’s podcast a couple weeks ago, what she said at the beginning really stuck out to me. She was talking about the “Meant for Joy” presentation that she did in Salt Lake (that I got to go to) and this is what she said…
“It was so wonderful to meet all of you guys. But here’s what was interesting about that. My brain kind of went on a “shame attack” after that. Like “who do you think you are? All these people want to meet you and take their picture with you like you’re something special. You are not anything special.” I want you to know that my brain does that thing as well. And I am very aware that I am nothing special and I think I have that reaction sometimes because I’m really not trying to create any kind of celebrity status around myself and so when people treat me that way it feels very out of alignment with who I’m really wanting to be and how I view myself. But what really helps me get back on track is to just remind my brain “none of this is about you. Just relax. This line of people that want to stand in line and come meet you, that has nothing to do with you. That has to do with you happen to be the messenger of some tools that are really helpful to them so they connect you to those tools but it’s something about them, it’s not about you.” That is something that always brings me peace. And really, I don’t view this as something that I’m doing. I view it that I am part of a team and those of you that listen and carry on this work and share it with others, we are all part of a team. Working together with a group of like minded people towards a cause is really rewarding and fulfilling to me. That’s really how I view it is that we are all trying to carry this work out together.”
I really resonated with what she said about how she is just the messenger. It’s not about her, it’s about the people that she is helping. She doesn’t desire fame or recognition. She just wants to help as many people as she can.
Another experience that caused me to reflect on this topic was the other day when I happened to hear a few of the songs from the 2017 Mutual album (for youth) and this one in particular stood out to me. It’s called “It’s Not About You.”
So to sum this all up, our life purpose is to become like God and to help others to become like God. And I feel that the best way to do that is through preparing ourselves (through purposeful and intentional self-care) and giving back through service to others – remembering that the focus for our service is on those that we serve (and ultimately, on God.)
This is something that I really want to shift my mindset on. Something that I have been doing lately is that before I start my routine each morning, I have been starting it off by saying a little prayer where I tell Heavenly Father that I am dedicating this morning’s routine to Him and I ask him to consecrate it for my good so that I can be a better instrument in His hands. I also ask Him to consecrate my performance that day to Him and His purposes.