Place the mask on first before assisting others

“Please place the mask on first before assisting others.”

I always laughed when I heard this phrase, but when you think about it makes so much sense. How in the world are you supposed to help save others around when you aren’t taking care of yourself first! This seems like such an easy concept, but how many times have you forgotten about yourself because you were so worried about other people? How often do you feel like you’re drowning in everyone’s shit, unable to clean up your own!?!

If you’re a mother, the answer is probably ALWAYS, right?

It has always been way to easy to think outside of myself and help someone in need. Not because I’m this amazing selfless person. On the contrary, it’s just easier to clean up a mess when you can see it, versus when you’re standing knee-deep in it. Not to mention it one of those “talents” or “character” traits that I possess, i don’t know. All I know is that when someone needs saving, I put my cape on and get to saving.

I’m that friend that everyone comes to when they’re going through it. The one that coaches out of the darkness of their emotions and into the light of reasonable, rational thinking. But for some reason, everyone thinks that because I can help them through their shit, I don’t need a hand through mine. “This is a PSA go check on your strong friends.” And boy are there a few times I need help.

When I was in college, I took over the gender studies club. One of the best things about being the president of the gender studies club was our philanthropist event. Every year for a woman driven cause, we would put on The vagina monologues. I don’t know if you have been privy to seeing or reading Eve Ensler’s The vagina monologues, but they are fascinating. Women tell stories of being a woman in all its forms and what it means to have a vagina. It was during this season of my life that I start to see my relationship in a different light.

More and more, it became evident that I sought to teach and help other women out of abusive relationships. Never thinking that I might have been in myself or was currently in one myself. I was continually helping at women shelters and volunteering for empowerment for women in Utah. I wanted so badly for women to have an equal standpoint and to be treated fairly even within their own house and family. Yet, I neglected to think about how I was being treated.

My house was loud but lonely. I always had my children around, but I was starved for love. It never occurred to me that there was anything more than that.

And that was just my and naive thinking. I’ve always been a strong one there was nobody who could ever beat me I hang out with guys I protected girls, and I was freaking badass. No one was going to take advantage of me. No one was going to lay a hand on me! I was physically ready to protect myself, but I wasn’t ready for the one-two punch of emotional and mental abuse.

Like most people, I wanted so badly to have my first marriage work. I lost sight of all of the warning flags I made excuses for why my life was the way it was we made excuses for why our marriage was so bad at that time. My ex fed me promises about how everything would get better.

But better still hasn’t happened…

I could remember during my marriage wanting so badly to have the same support about being on stage that my ex-husband had from me. It was great that and I want opening night for the most part he would be there to see me in my show. But him showing up, if he did, never overshadow the fact that during the entire process, he was complaining. He would complain about why he couldn’t go out or why he had to watch the kids instead of just being there. I never did that to him it was okay for him to have a life, but the moment I started living mine, it was like all hell broke loose.

You know it seems like such a little thing. But, when this was the normal reaction, the little things became huge.

And I wished someone, anyone who saw his behavior or saw us arguing, would have come to me and asked me if I needed help. I don’t know that I would have told him, yes, I just wish someone would have done it. Look, it took me a long time to realize that I needed help. But for the first time, I just needed a life jacket. I just needed someone to throw out the lifesaver.

And again, I know the seems small, but it’s the little things that are significant. But, coupled with this story are a lot of feelings of isolation and loneliness and a miserable marriage. And the problem for a lot of women, the problem for me is feeling so small. Being told that little things like this are insignificant keeps women silent and unhappy, and in unhealthy relationships.

And then the problem gross because this behavior leads to things like abusive relationships. The truth is as it is a big deal. For women, it’s such a big deal that we don’t know how to handle it ourselves. It’s a survival mechanism for us, instead of focusing on these little things in our lives, we help other people. And I’ve seen it, and I’ve lived it. I know how scary it is to have to face the fear of you working on yourself of taking back some of your own power. It may mean risking the only thing you’ve known. You may be at risk of an abusive relationship who knows what it may mean, but it is a risk to you.

What is scary is the risk you have to be able to make: You. Be willing to bet on yourself and your happiness and your well-being for the better good of everybody who depends on you, period. So I’ve made it my mission to spread the word of the flight attendants everywhere:

“Please place the mask over yourself first before assisting others.”

Remember, you have two choices. You or Them? And if you answered you, you’ve made the best choice, and the smartest one you’ll ever make. Because if you don’t save yourself, who’s going to save them?

Love Amber

Ready to choose yourself? I invite you to a free 30min discovery call.

Amber Tobias-Harris

Intuitive Accountability Coach & Empowerment Expert

Amber is an author, women's advocate, empowerment expert and life coach. She specializes in accountability and self-defense. She helps you build your self-worth + confidence one choice at a time. And you have an open invitation to invest in yourself because you're worth it.

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