please put your mask on first

In my experience, I have found that it’s very easy to focus on someone else’s feelings rather than our own. I don’t know if it’s the mystery of not having all the pieces or if it has something to do with our own fears to face what’s really going on.

While I was away this weekend, I stayed up late talking to my weekend roommate. Pillow talk is always the best, isn’t it? Anyway, as we were falling asleep, my roommate added in one last question. The minute I heard it, I knew it would spiral into deep conversation. It did. My roommate was worried about a relationship in their life. As the concerns rolled out, I couldn’t help but notice that there was more emphasis on the other person rather than on their own feelings.

I stopped to ask the simplest question: “Wait, but how do you feel?” and it stumped me to hear “I don’t know.”

As luck would have it, this morning as I started this post, another friend vented about a similar situation. They had a problem in their life & their main focus was on the effects it would have on the relationships involved.

If we have a problem with someone and we focus on what we want them to understand and feel about us, we’ll never get anywhere. Progress isn’t made that way. Our priority should be to address our own feelings first. It’s only then that we begin to understand what we need and expect from others. It’s only then that an approach can begin to make sense.

If I feel unsafe in a relationship or a friendship, my mind will naturally navigate towards the following thoughts:

Why is this person acting this way? What have I done wrong? What can I do to change this? Is this fair? How can I fix this? Why are they doing this? How did I cause this? How can I avoid this?

Here is the thing—none of the above would answer the most important question of all… how do I feel about?When something is going wrong in life, I find that asking the following questions first make things clearer:

What do I feel? Is this discomfort? Why do I feel this? What does the other person do to make me feel this way? What do I do that makes me feel this way? What do I want?

The first scenario encourages control over the other person, while the second merely opens the floor for our feelings to flow out. The first scenario’s intention to resolve will easily get tangled up in the ego’s desire to feel satisfied. The second scenario usually reveals truth, which is easier to work with. Our answers are inside of us—nowhere else. No one else has them. At the root of every problem we have to first find out where we stand, then we can move forward. We can’t work things out the other way around and it’s not fair to demand answers from the world when we don’t know our own.

Even in life or death scenarios, airlines suggest that one puts one’s mask on before helping another person. Think about it…



About Antonella Saravia

Antonella is a freelance writer. Graduated from Purdue University, Antonella is based out of New York City and Nicaragua, where she was raised. Follow her via Twitter @tonesaravia & Instagram via @tsaravia.

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