As leaders, we are taught to be selfless individuals. We are taught to put others before ourselves in every circumstance, even if it becomes detrimental to our own well-being.
I was raised in a household that emphasized the significance of being selfless. I could not put myself first, I had to put others first in every circumstance. If a friend forgot her lunch, I would give her my sandwich. If I have to study for an exam but my friend needs to talk, I will drop everything to make sure he or she is okay. If I really want Spanish food but my mom wants pizza, I will eat pizza. While these examples seem minor, being selfless has conditioned my mind to put others first no matter the cost.
While this mentality is beneficial for others, it became so extreme to the point where my mental health almost spiraled out of control.
A couple months ago I was touched inappropriately by a student in one of my classes. I decided to just distance myself from this individual and move on. Anytime I do not want to address an issue in my life I tell myself, “Alisa, you don’t have time to be emotionally unstable.” It’s how I justify avoiding the problem until it all boils up and I explode.
Well, I told myself to just move on and everything will be okay. Fast forward months later, I ended up in a group with this individual for our thesis projects. Because we already had such a small number of people in the group, I knew if I left the group it would put them at a serious disadvantage. My heart was beating fast and I could feel my anxiety reaching an all-time high. I heard the Holy Spirit say, “You need to switch Alisa,” but I kept ignoring Him because I didn't want to inconvenience my group members. So I suffered in silence until I left class and broke down in tears. I was not mad at the individual who was the catalyst for my anxiety, I was mad at myself for not speaking up. I have no problem speaking up when it benefits others, but it is so hard for me to stand up for myself. I remember frustration overwhelming my body and I knew I had to make a change.
After speaking to my mentor, she made it clear that I had to switch groups even though it would inconvenience the other members of the group. She explained to me that sacrificing my mental health to benefit others is not worth it.
Instead of thinking about how uncomfortable I would feel if I remained in the group with that individual, I was only thinking about how me leaving would put the rest of the individuals at a disadvantage. From this experience, I learned that it’s okay to put myself first, and not only is it okay, but it is imperative. As leaders, we tend to forget about taking care of ourselves because we are so concerned about the well-being of others. We spend our lives pouring love into others and we lose sight of the significance of taking the time to love ourselves. While helping others is important, you can't sacrifice so much of yourself that you end up with nothing else to give. You come first.
Share what or who helped you realize you come first in the comments BELOW!