Updated: Oct 26, 2020
What I want to talk about today was inspired by the last book I read, as well as the last flight I took. The book is Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, and what piqued my mind on the flight was the safety announcement. I realize that Jordan Peterson is a politically contentious figure, but I hope that doesn’t taint anyone’s view of what I am trying to say.
Anyway, I experienced some synchronicity on that flight.
One of JP's rules, and I am paraphrasing, is to take care of yourself like you were somebody you were supposed to take care of. If you just read over that quickly it will seem like a bunch of words. So take a moment to stop and think about what it means to care for someone.
-Taking care of somebody (think about it)-
When you are taking care of someone you are doing whatever is in your power to make sure that they are either safe, well-fed, and possibly even flourishing. You are going to make sure that they have food to eat, clothes to wear, feel comfortable, etc. It can be quite involved.
I am not trying to get into a gender-roles argument here, but I want to say that Mothers are particularly known for being great at taking care of people. Yes, I will even say it is in their DNA as they are responsible for brining human life into the planet. In my own family, as I was growing up, the women were professionals at taking care of others, and this was awesome because it meant everyone got spoiled at family gatherings, holidays, birthdays, etc. There was always baking, pirogies, and treats. I want to use that mental image of caring moving forward.
In young adult-hood a realization occurred as my world view started expanding from the small bubble of myself to others around me. At this point I started to realize that this caring for others might have a bit of a downside. I was never quite sure how to frame it, or understand it, and a chapter in Jordan Peterson’s book kind of tied it together for me.
The women in my family placed taking care of other people higher on the list than taking care of themselves. Although this was selfless, it didn’t leave the caregivers in my life a lot of time to take care of themselves and this has had observable outcomes.
If you were to list most people’s priorities, “self-care” (which encompasses stress relief, sleeping, healthy eating, exercise, and simply having fun) is way down on the list. People chose to put almost everything above their health and basic enjoyment of life.
Using my own Mother as an example, she has spent most of her life caring for others and putting herself second in both her careers; a stay at home mom and later as a social worker. But I should stop picking on my Mom because she is not alone in this. How many career oriented people say things like, "I wish I had time to be healthy." People chase a myriad of things like success, money, status, property, brand names all while ignoring their health.
So let me as you something.
When you turn 70 what would you rather have?
10 extra active years to enjoy life.
We are conditioned in society to think that being healthy is a luxury of some sort. The right thing to do is focus on career, and let the lazy hippies worry about being healthy and buying food that doesn't poison them. I know I have ranted on this a bit before, but once again it seems that things are backwards. Just like its now the normal to eat unhealthy, it is also normal to put career and other people over taking care of yourself. These are not mutually exclusive, but people seem to make it that way.
Of course you shouldn’t be a completely selfish a-hole, but when you fly, what do they say on every flight safety announcement before you take off?
It was a bit eerie, but I had just finished the related chapter of JP's book when the flight attendant made me take my headphones off to listen to the safety announcement. I put my kindle away and tried to zone out. However, one part of the announcements made me stop and think. It was especially poignant today after just finishing that chapter.
“Put your mask securely on before assisting others.”
It just seems a bit wrong on the surface. You can picture selfish Dad putting his own mask on while little Joey is sucking for air. But when you actually think about it, it makes total sense. Joey's Dad needs to be in a condition to help Joey, and if he doesn't first make sure his mask is on, he might not make it to the point where he can secure the mask of Joey.
A plane going down expedites this process, but I urge you to consider if and how your health on the flight of life is any different besides the time-scale.
If you don’t take care of yourself you won’t be able to enjoy the things you have sacrificed your health for. The healthier you are the more energy you will have to put out into the world. The more vitality you have to give the more you can give back.
So, my point....
I’m begging everyone to take a look at their priorities and see where “my health" is on the list. There is no shame in deciding that you are going to take the time needed to take care of yourself. Put your health as a top priority. Would you rather be a bit selfish or unhealthy or even sick? I believe you owe it to yourself, it is your right, and I also believe your duty and responsibility. Society will run you ragged and not call you after. You need to be in control. This might mean joining that gym, starting a yoga class or a pottery class. It might even mean digging your heels in and telling a boss, or partner, that things need to change so that you can take better care of yourself. I have said similar things before but you only get one body in this life. Make sure you take care of it so that you can live a long life to the fullest.
Founder of Seneca Strength