Every month we invite our readers to pitch us articles on a theme revealed in our regular newsletter. Find out what our next theme is by subscribing to our newsletter below. This month we were inspired by Simone Biles choosing to take time out for her mental health at the Olympics and chose ‘self-preservation’ as our theme. We liked Sally Pitts take on why self-preservation is supposed to be uncompromising.
Why should self-preservation have to be acceptable to others? The answer is – it shouldn’t because it’s not for others.
Over the last year and a half, my levels of self-preservation have gone into overdrive. There are so many different coping mechanisms I’ve used to try and get through Covid times – from drinking all the gin to trying all the meditation. It has certainly been a yo-yo ride, sometimes ending with the string so tangled that I didn’t know how to get free.
But we’re programmed to survive, so we have to do whatever that is to help ourselves. This can be a little unnerving as I discovered one morning sitting in a child’s pose, breathing like I was possessed or pregnant – I was neither but you get the picture. I should mention here that I’m Australian and was living through this nightmare in the USA with my husband of only a year.
At the time Australia was handling the pandemic well and I knew I could go home but my husband wouldn’t be able to come with me as he’s American and doesn’t yet have a visa. In that moment I realised that I could literally save myself if I had to. That I could leave my marriage to protect my life as the virus spread all over the USA.
But it made me wonder how other people would perceive me if I did that. I definitely wouldn’t be seen as ‘nice’ even if it felt like my only option. However, why should I have even considered what other people were thinking concerning my self-preservation? It’s because as women we’re programmed to be ‘nice.’ Which is why self-preservation can feel uncomfortable but that’s what it’s there for – to protect ourselves.
Ultimately, I chose to stay with my husband as I felt I’d rather be with him even if the situation wasn’t as good. Although I now realised that I could put myself first if I had to. However, as I write this I still fear being judged for even just saying it. Part of me also hates myself as I know how much I love my husband. But there might come a time when you have to love yourself a little more.
I mean we all know you’re meant to put on your own oxygen mask before anyone else’s. We’re indisputably being told to save ourselves first and yet as women we still seem to want to make sure others are OK before we are. Therefore, it’s clear that the messaging we receive as women that self-preservation is selfish needs to change.
It’s time to get comfortable with the fact that our choices won’t always be liked by others. I’ve decided that I won’t make decisions about my self-preservation based on whether it’ll make someone else feel uncomfortable. I’ll be confident in my decisions and understand they’re the best ones for me. Because at the end of the day I know that there’s no room to be ‘nice’ when it comes to self-preservation.