For the longest time in my life I lived for other people. I lived to see others happy to the expense of my own happiness. I lived to make others proud of me and wallow in their validation. I did things for others. There wasn’t a journey I started for me. It was always for someone, family or friends.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in a culture where everyone points out the responsibility you have over the others, and you are rarely told to do one or two things for you. Yourself. Society hands you the cross and you drag it along for so long you keep tripping and forget to breath.
Mainly, the motivation you get from those older than you goes something like this, work hard so you can do this for your family. Work hard so you can help your parents. Build them a house. Buy them a car. Open up a business for them. Work hard so you can take your younger ones to school. Work hard so you can employ your cousins. Work hard so your children (non-existent yet) won’t have to go through this and that. Work hard so you can buy medicine for your grandma and get grandpa a wheelchair. Work hard so you can build a clinic for your village. Work hard because so and so were unable, you are our redemption, our only hope. Etc
Imagine a child growing up in this atmosphere. Always been given responsibility that isn’t solely theirs to fulfill. It’s too much pressure, however much the end game seems like a good cause.
In my culture, children are the future. Children aren’t normally given a choice. Theirs is to grow up, get great grades, work even harder to come back and fix what isn’t working.
Have you ever felt guilty when you are doing something great for yourself instead of doing it for someone else? I have, a million times.
Concrete example: You want to buy yourself something, might be expensive or not, well expensive is subjective but doesn’t matter.
But you stand there and a number of people are crisscrossing through your mind. So and so might need this money I’m about to spend on a watch. So you either buy it and battle both feelings of happy that you treated yourself and guilt that you didn’t give one of the persons who might have needed the money more. Or you don’t buy it and go home sulking.
One thing I live for is family. I will buy a plane ticket once a year if I can and want to, just to go and spend time with them. There is value in family. Definitely. I can do anything for family, but I have also learnt to find myself and stand by myself without depending on them. I have learnt to do things for me and not always for them. Sounds selfish and you might misunderstand. But I have also learnt that I don’t always have to explain myself.
You will be judged a lot for doing the tiniest thing for yourself. Some will say you are doing the most to prove a point. I remember, on one of my visits back home I was shocked to realize that some people are heavily bothered that I live abroad and I’m able to come home once in a while. (Not even as much as I want to).
These characters forget that anyone has the right and power to lay down their priorities and live by them. Prioritization is key and very achievable.
I have been asked countless times how I manage to go home as often as I do. Smh. Yes. Like I wasn’t supposed to ever go back home. What stood out to me was this lady at church who in front of some other women started giving me a lecture on things I should do for my community and referencing certain people who have done “something” instead of “always” visiting my family. I was shook and I honestly don’t remember my response.
I discussed it with my parents. They were also shocked too. I haven’t built a hospital or dug a borehole for my entire village to this day nor have I spread tarmac on our muddy road leading to the town center and I still graciously visit my family when I want to. Also, people are used to only seeing and respecting those that drive huge machines, those who sneak them handouts, to notice the little good others do in whispers or in silence.
It is too deep that as an adult It takes a lot of growing up, maturing , exercising your mind to explore and break down facts, indulge in possibilities and allowing a switch on your mentality to get out of this funk that you can only find fulfillment and happiness by satisfying other people’s needs and wants.
Unfortunately, and I know you already know this, you can never satisfy a human being. No matter who and what they are to you. We are too complex. Intentionally search and discover yourself, and recognize what makes you happy. Don’t burden yourself with fulfilling another persons dream because you can’t. You will never fulfill another person. Fulfillment can only come from within.
Sadly, you will realize how entitled and ungrateful human beings are. If you live to fulfill other people’s needs and wants you will live miserably and die poor. Your energies will be crushing and for the most part you will feel NOT ENOUGH.
It is not easy and it is always easier said than done but I can honestly and happily say that now I live mostly for myself. I’m learning to be responsible for myself and only hold myself accountable. Still trying to lovingly break the chains of always putting others before me to my expense. Shaking off the guilt of not always coming through for others. Which doesn’t mean I love them less. Choosing to go on vacation over contributing to a fundraising to build a church. Choosing to buy a watch instead of sending a friend money to restock their business. I choose me because I work hard. I’m proud of myself. Because I too deserve.
So how about we teach our children that it is perfectly okay to do certain things solely for themselves. Something like, work hard for yourself. Work hard so you can make yourself proud. Work hard so you don’t ever have to beg for anything. Work hard so your siblings can learn from you through your hard work. Work hard and don’t forget the values I have instilled in you, kindness, generosity, love, caring among others. These are the ones that will lead you back to us. Whatever you choose to do with your achievements and accomplishments is all up to you. We will support you and not be entitled to your success.
Do you! Be you! Live for you!
As usual please let me know below if you relate ,have some story similar to the above or have some insights You’de like to share.