It's in our nature to care about what other people think. We live in a state of perpetual fear over the thoughts and opinions of others. It's sad, but our daily actions are often motivated by obtaining the approval of others. There's an obsession with making sure we don't disappoint those around us, and this is most usually in exchange for our own happiness.
Think about all that you do for everyone else, and then think about what you do for yourself. How much time do you spend caring about other people's needs before you pay mind to your own?
This is a common occurrence found among females in motherhood, sure, as tending to children is in the maternal nature of women. However, this trend has been present more recently in younger generations, with Gen-Y and our youths compromising their goals, dreams and aspirations to succumb to the desires of those around them, or to fit the mold of what's practical.
College students are settling for majors they don't love, just to satisfy the wishes of their parents; while graduates are accepting job offers in positions they hate, just so their parents will cease the pressure and will have something "good" to tell their friends at dinner parties.
Despite having so much life to live, Generation-Y has fallen victim to the epidemic of settling, of putting their desires and wants to the wayside, in order to fulfill those of their parents, friends and peers.
Of course, helping others is admirable. It's a beautiful thing to see humans caring for one another and putting the needs of others before their own. It's a testament to brotherhood and to mankind. But what happens when your selflessness becomes an innate characteristic of yourself? What happens when you become so compelled to please everyone else that you dismiss your own happiness? What happens when you witness your life becoming a composite of the favors and demands of others?
There will come a point in your life (and hopefully, that point is right now) when it's imperative that you learn how to stick up for yourself and learn that to be selfish for the well-being of the self is, in fact, acceptable. As you become more of an adult with more to lose and less time to spend on this Earth, you must become stronger and more confident in expressing how you feel.
You must learn to stick up for yourself to make sure that you are not being taken advantage of. However, I know as well as anyone that it's difficult to dictate to others on matters they don't wish to hear. The pain of letting someone down, disappointing them, just doesn't seem worth the freedom that comes with saying, "No."
Whether it's a stranger on the subway or your little sister, telling someone something he or she doesn't want to hear can be very hard. We are empathetic and compassionate beings, who understand what it feels like to be let down, or even rejected, and we don't like to bring sorrow onto others anymore than we do onto ourselves.
Of course, being selfish is not virtuous. I'm not condoning that you completely disregard the needs of others and only take care of yourself. It's utter selfishness that leads to the loss of friends and betrayal of family, but you must find a middle ground. You must decipher when it's okay to be selfish, when it's okay to take care of yourself first.
The first step in doing so is understanding the motives of individuals and what they are asking of you. You are too young to be making sacrifices and compromises, before your future has even had a chance to play out.
Don't let others take advantage of your selfless nature and kind heart. While your friends and family may not be consciously taking advantage of your warm and giving traits, it's human nature to worry about yourself before others, and they may not very well realize what they are doing.
You must learn to recognize when people need your help and when they simply want it. Here are four factors to consider when determining whether the actions of another are a result of need or want:
People Won't Remember
Your friend isn't going to remove you from his or her life because you couldn't pick her up at the train station. If you aren't busy and you can spare the time and the gas to pick up a friend, by all means, do it. But if you are busy and heading to the station is going to inconvenience you, your friend is not going to hold it against you forever. People won't remember the trivial times you couldn't lend a helping hand as much as they remember all the times you did.
People Get Over It
People move on. While your parents may be disappointed for a few weeks after you tell them you aren't studying their major of choice, they will get over it. Time heals all, and eventually, people will move past your choice to go another direction and continue focusing on their own lives, apart from their wants and desires for you.
Your Needs Come First
You must remember that you are the hero/heroine of your life, not the supporting character. This is your life and your needs come before anyone else's. While it's great to help others and make people feel good, it's important that you are not giving away everything you have without getting anything in return.
You Know What's Best For You
You are the only one who knows what you need and what is going to make you happy. Why would listening to others and following their wishes and demands benefit you? As your aspirations and desires become more unique, it will become more important for you to stick up for yourself to protect those dreams.
Top Photo Courtesy: We Heart It