Remember hearing the instructions to put on your oxygen mask first before helping anyone with theirs? Every time you are on a commercial flight you hear a hint of this common error. Many women have to be reminded because their first response is to place others before themselves. Why does this happen? How is this an error?

I spent the last two weeks with my granddaughters, one almost 3 and the other almost 6. They are amazingly self-centered. They want what they want right now.

We were once like that. But our upbringing has resulted in our sense of self and our desires vanishing because we learn to attend to what others expect of us. Too often the efforts to civilize us succeed beyond what is necessary, and also "homogenize" us.

We have been bombarded with words that tell us how to feel, what to think, what to want, who we are, what is good, what is right, what to buy, where to vacation, and what is possible...
What are the results? Too often we are led to believe that happiness comes from the outside with fame, fortune and things. In our confusion too many of us ultimately believe that to get the love, attention and approval we want from others we need to put their needs first.

Over a hundred and fifty years ago, suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton objected:

"Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice. The thing which most retards and militates against women's self-development is self-sacrifice."

If you don't just love your life right now why continue on the same course and using the same attitudes and actions? As Lao Tzu warns:

"If you do not change direction, you may end up
where you are heading."

In midlife, if not earlier, we have the opportunity to make a midcourse correction—to become less concerned about what others think and begin to discover what we really care about. If you don't choose to do so, whose life are you living?

There are many heartbreaking stories of women who choose to live for others and cancer is their wake-up call. Psychologist Lawrence LeShan has a collection of them. Maya Tiwari, an Ayuvedic nutritionist, has a similar story with an inspiring conclusion of how she discovered how to live life on her own terms. A corrective reorientation requires an understanding of self-love.

First, reflect on the person you listen best to, someone you give complete attention and respect to. Now here's the test: Do you give yourself that quality of attention? Do you always know how you feel? Do you know your dreams? Your desires? Your longings? Are you paying attention to those aspects of you?
Many of us get distracted with the sentimental aspect of love. More basic than sentiment is the consistent non-judgmental attention and listening to the heart/soul. Your presence to yourself, as consistently as you can make it, is an important part of what it means to love yourself.

If joy and peace are not enough of your daily experience consider giving the light of attention to yourself so your heart/soul has a chance to grow.

Anne K. Uemura, Ph.D., Transformational Life Coach-Healer

Author's Bio: 

Anne Uemura, Ph.D., presents an amalgam of principles and techniques that reflect the wisdom of her personal and professional experiences. These combine cutting edge concepts for deep and rapid transformation with the gifts from ancient traditions. A key principle is honoring and insisting on each person’s uniqueness of life path and life purpose. An experienced psychologist of almost 3 decades, she works currently as a certified Master Results Coach, certified Life Coach, Performance Consultant plus has expertise in many other fields. As author of Invest in You and The Treasures of Midlife, she is pleased to share and teach from her continuing self-development.