Can I tell you something? I’m not bragging or trying to pat myself on the back, I promise. Last year, for all the photo sessions and events I covered, I was maybe paid my full rate for 10% of them. I also didn’t make a single penny for anything I wrote. Almost everything I did in 2015 was free or at a very discounted rate.
So, what’s my point in telling you this? Well, near the end of the year, I ended up in the emergency room and closed out the year owing more in medical bills than I made all year. I worked my tail off ALL year but could not afford my own medical needs. I ended 2015 broke. We had $12 in our account to cover anything we needed…because I gave way too much away — time, effort, writing, photography.
Again, I’m not trying to make myself sound oh so great. The truth is, I’m ashamed that I didn’t bother to take care of my own family. Or myself. My desire to please others, to speak my love language (giving) was stronger than my need to take care of me, to find a better balance.
I have a hard time with saying NO. I’ve been bending and doing and people-pleasing for so long, it took finding myself in tears on Christmas Eve to really see how far into a hole that has gotten me. Once upon a time, I fell for the whole “write for exposure” deal, and that never led to anything real (turns out, I’m just as known or unknown regardless of pay or lack of pay, but at least with pay, we can eat). And yet, in so many ways, I keep doing it.
People like you when you give them things.*
Part of my whole healing process has been learning to release that need to make people like me, that maybe I’m likable regardless of whether I bring my camera or not, whether I write for free or not, and on and on. But that’s a lesson like taking a leap and hoping the net appears, because the question lingers in the air on the way down: But what if they don’t like me after all?
The real journey, as I’ve come to realize it, has been in learning to like myself. As long as others like me, I don’t have to look closely enough to know if I like myself. And sometimes I really don’t. I despise how I talk to myself, how I give everyone but me the time of day, support, help, yeses.
This has to be the year that I am on my own side, that I cheer for me, that I give time to me, that I say yes to me. I show up to the page to write first for me, and with a camera first for me, and with words of encouragement first for me. Not because I need to be selfish, but rather because I need to remember that I matter too — and sometimes first.
There is a fine balance that takes place in this life — one between loving others and loving self. But when the scales have tipped to the point that self has been neglected, there won’t be anything left to give to others. Be it time, money, gifts, or love, we have to keep ourselves in the equation, else we’ll burn out completely.
*This isn’t true, of course. People like what you give them — they still might not like YOU.