I was on a plane recently, just doing my thing, drawing in my sketchbook, when the flight attendant started doing the safety brief they do before every flight, and my eyes were starting to get tired, so I closed my sketchbook.
Usually, I don’t really pay attention to the flight attendant’s brief. I’m of the opinion that if we’re going down in a plane, hell we’re probably going to die, so why bother. However, the flight attendant was right in front of me as he delivered his spiel, so I decided to pay attention.
The thing that caught my attention was when the flight attendant addressed the parents in the plane and instructed them to first don their oxygen mask and then to assist their children in putting on their own. It’s a little counterintuitive when you first think about it, shouldn’t the children come first? However, upon a little more thought, it starts to make sense.
You can’t help your children if you die first. It’s the same principle I learned when I received my fire-fighting training in basic. Get your own breathing support on before you help others with theirs. If someone else is struggling to get their oxygen on and you try to help them before getting your own on and you both die, then there is nobody left to help fight the fire, and everyone dies.
I think that this is a good metaphor for a lot of things in life. You can’t offer anyone any really useful help with their problems until you’ve dealt with your own. You can’t really give another person life advice unless you’ve got your own house in order first. What use would my help be if I was being drowned by life? How can I help you fix your problems if I was being suffocated by my own challenges?
I’ve of the opinion that you need to help yourself before you can help others. That doesn’t mean being some kind of unrealistically perfect human being, but if you live your life trying to help others while neglecting that fact that you yourself are drowning, then sooner or later you’re going to end up dragging those people down into the depths along with you.
How are you going to help a family member out financially unless you have your own finances under control? I’ve seen plenty of people dedicate their lives to helping someone else only to ignore the fact that their own ship is sinking. What happens if you become a burden to the very people that you were trying to help in the first place? You both go down.
I’m not saying you need to be selfish. I’m not saying you shouldn’t help other person out unless your life is in perfect standing order. Am I selfish because I put my oxygen mask on before I help you with yours? No. I’m acting in a way the improves the chances of both of us surviving.
It is in your own self-interest as well as in the best interest of those you care for that you care for yourself, that you put your own mask on first so that you can be useful in times of crisis. you’re of no benefit to others if your own house isn’t in order.
Take care of your own health, mental and physical, before you try to help someone else with theirs. Take care of your own financials before you try to help someone out with theirs. Fix your own problems before you spend all your time trying to help someone else take care of theirs.
It’s not selfish to put yourself first. It increases the probability of success. Put your own mask on first.