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Balancing Sacrifice & Self-care

Photo by Armin Hanisch

Sacrifice. The word is used in baseball as something done to advance a base runner. In chess, it is when you deliberately allow an opponent to win a piece. There are reasons behind those specific sacrifices. Basically, to sacrifice is “to give up something important or valued for the sake of other considerations.”

Compromise. This word can mean “to settle a dispute by mutual concession,” or “to accept standards that are lower than is desirable.” Now the latter is synonymous with the first; however, the first sounds far more appealing. The “lower than is desirable” part, which makes the two definitions sound dissimilar, is where the word “sacrifice” usually comes in.

Sacrifices can be small or large, and they are subjective. What one person may consider a small sacrifice may be immeasurable to someone else. This is akin to the idiom, “Walk a mile in my shoes,” as no one can truly understand the feelings (or sacrifices) of another because no one has had the same experiences as another. I know some people feel that they have had the same experience – they have had abusive parents, a particular cancer, or broke their arm. The fact is, even when two people have experienced the same thing, take, for example, a broken arm, the experience is still vastly different because the experiences leading up to that moment in each of their lives are vastly different. Their personalities are vastly different, and their perceptions are vastly different. It is unfair to both parties to assume it is the same experience and neither is right or wrong. They are simply different and very personal.

Now we can talk about sympathy versus empathy. Sympathy is understanding from your own perspective, while empathy is the “walk a mile in my shoes” understanding. Empathy is when we try to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and understand why they have particular feelings. When we have empathy for someone, we are removing our feelings and replacing them with their feelings. Acknowledging that a person’s feelings are legitimate, recognizing that they are allowed to feel that way, and understanding it is not about you; it is about the other person’s point of view. Feeling empathetic can often lead to compassion. This is why empathy is important because we could all use a little compassion in our lives.

With compassion, we feel motivated to reduce the suffering of others. When we do this, we have made the world a better place. That is the reward. Compassion happens when we do things for others without regard to reimbursement. Compassion should not expect compensation. Often people will send a thank you note or gift when someone has shown them compassion; the point is that compassion was not given for the physical reward.

Your compassion for others might even be a sacrifice you are willing to give for the sake of someone else. With that in mind, be careful that you do not sacrifice so much that your suffering becomes a threat to your well-being. Compromise, sacrifice, compassion, these should not cost you your health. There is a reason when on a flight, the attendants tell you to put your oxygen mask on first. You cannot help others if you can no longer breathe.

At the end of the day, self-care is important and not selfish. Some people will put themselves before anything and everything else, thinking only of themselves and actually causing harm to others to better themselves. This is selfish. Taking care that you are safe, well-rested, not overwhelmed, not anxious – this is self-care.

Learning the balance between self-care and compassion is a life-long effort. No one is perfect at it at any point in time, and that is okay. We are all works in progress. Thinking that we get everything right by a certain age is an illusion. Ideally, we never stop learning because the world is constantly changing. Comparing life “when I was a kid” to “kids these days” is not only unfair, it is not very empathetic. When older generations do this, they are not trying to see the world from the next generation's perspective. They are only looking through their own lens. The world changes so much. To compare how life was in the 1950s to today is so overwhelming and problematic. In fact, we do not even have to go seventy years back; even to compare a decade ago to today is erroneous. It is not fair to either generation.

Balance your sacrifices, compassion, and self-care each day. Understand that sometimes you will need help. You are worth the work. The world and you will be happier and healthy for it.

Love Lots; Smile Often



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