Giving gifts is a huge part of our culture. We give gifts throughout the year - at the holidays, Mother's Day, Father's Day, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. We often spend a lot of time selecting just the right gift, the gift that will show our loved ones that we care about them.
But did you ever stop to think that maybe the greatest gift you can give someone is to take care of yourself?
Wait! You may ask, how can that be the greatest gift?
What does taking care of me have anything to do with someone else?
How can that demonstrate just how much I care about them?
How can an act that feels selfish possibly be a gift to someone else?
Let's look at it from a different perspective. Imagine the following scenarios take place and ask yourself how it would make you feel if:
Your elderly mother takes her doctor's recommendations and starts walking, swimming, or doing yoga so she remains as flexible and as strong as possible.
A loved one with a chronic condition decides to seek out the best practices and is now committed to accepting and pushing through the condition, determined to live life to the fullest.
Your child becomes passionate about a favorite subject and starts focusing on grades and a future career.
Your spouse starts following advice, advice avoided for years. Now you see your spouse exercising, eating healthier foods, and looking and feeling better every day.
A grieving spouse has now decided it is time to move on and share his heart again, thus allowing new people into his life.
Your best friend finally leaves his unsatisfying job and finds the career he has always wanted, and is happier than you have seen him in years.
Your sister decided to join a group and go see the cities and countries she had only dreamed of visiting before.
Don't you feel better, even though you may not know these people? Isn't it crazy how just knowing that someone, even a stranger, is taking care him or herself can make you happy?
What about the people you do know? Think of your loved ones. What changes would you like to see them make?
Fill in the blanks for your friends and family:
I would love to know that (insert name) ___________________________ is now (doing this/making this change in their life) ______________________.
How does that feel? Do you feel lighter? Happier? More hopeful about life in general?
Does it make you start to think about what you could be doing that would make you happier? Could it, somehow, give you permission to now move on and start thinking about you, again?
Incredible, isn't it?
Making positive changes in your life can truly be a gift to your loved ones. It is a gift to them if you keep yourself healthy, rested, and surrounded by experiences and people who are good influences on you. Think how it would lighten up their load if you were happy, confident, and a joy to be around. It may even inspire them to do the same, to want to be as happy as you are.
Sometimes the greatest gift you can give someone is to take care of yourself.
It isn't always easy. Choosing to take care of yourself can be particularly difficult if your loved ones are really struggling. You may ask, how can I be thinking about me? How can I possibly be considering making a life change, exercising, or being happy when my loved one is having such a hard time? Isn't that selfish? Doesn't that mean I don't care?
Have you heard the advice given to a mother who is on a plane, traveling with children? In case of emergency, she was told to put on her oxygen mask first. She needs to be alert, healthy, and strong to be able to put the oxygen masks on her children. As "selfish" as this seems, it allows for the best possible outcome. Without taking care of herself first, she cannot be at her best to help others.
If you choose, instead, to wait for everyone else to be "okay" (for everyone to put their oxygen masks on) before you take care of yourself, you will be in for a long, long wait. Life is constantly challenging all of us. There is no "perfect" moment when every single person in your life is doing beautifully and is not struggling.
And, other people's struggles are just that: THEIRS. If you choose to make their experience become your experience, you will stop moving forward. It will be as if you have decided to jump in the deep, fast and scary water with them. That does not help them. You are the most helpful when you are the strong and healthy one on the shore, the one who can clearly see the branch or the boulder needed to hang on to in order to get out, the one who can remain calm or shout encouragement as they go through their challenge.
See how by taking care of you, you could be taking care of them?
Take a moment and ask yourself what changes you could make now in your life?
Do you know what do you need to do to take care of you?
What advice have you received that you could now begin to take involving your mental, emotional, physical or spiritual health?
What changes do you know, deep down, would be good for you?
Yes, sometimes the greatest gift you can give someone is to take care of yourself.