Posted by: Deborah Drezon Carroll | March 5, 2010

Save Yourself First!

I just read an article about how happiness is elusive for many women because we can’t be happy unless we make everyone else happy first. I’m as nice as the next person, I like to think (people who know me might argue that point) but I say BS to that. Women are getting a bad rap as doormats.

Yes, we like to please people and yes, a lot of women have a hard time saying no but, the more we put it out there that we have this “happiness” problem, the more women will be taught, conditioned or brainwashed into believing that we’re selfish if we do it a different way.
Here’s what I believe — my happiness philosophy is exactly the same as the one flight attendants espouse with the oxygen masks that magically (although not in a good or fun way) pop out of the ceiling on airplanes. They teach you this simple lesson — save yourself first. If you are traveling with a small child, a husband, an less-ept (cause I don’t want to refer to anyone’s SO as inept) significant other or anyone else who requires extra help, you are instructed to put the mask on your own face first because, let’s face it, if you can’t breathe you are very little help to anyone. True, so true, of happiness. If you aren’t happy, the likelihood that your kids will be happy is greatly reduced.

Is it selfish to put your needs ahead of your kids and family? Not at all. If you want to be more loving and giving to them, start with loving and giving yourself first. I tried to help my girls along with whatever they needed but not at the expense of my own happiness. Am I selfish? Maybe. Did they grow up to be happy people? Definitely. Although some days, we can’t answer their calls because we know misery is lurking on the other end of the phone, most days, they’re a pleasure to know. What do you think, Carroll girls? Did I model happiness well? Did you grow up thinking me a selfish B?

Tamra writes:
No, I don’t think you are a selfish B (why does everyone keep taking my lingo?) I guess you guys did a good job of modeling making yourself happy but also being nice to other people. I think there are ways to do both. For example, if you want to go to Key West to see 10 drag shows in 4 days, buy a ticket for your sister to go with you and then you can both go. It’s a win-win.

I like other people around me to be happy, but I think that is selfish too. I want them to be happy so I don’t have to deal with them being miserable or angry. It’s uncomfortable when people around you are upset. So, I guess wanting other people to be happy can be selfish. It’s hard to find something you do that is literally just to be a good person.

Also, I don’t think there are any days where you don’t answer our calls. You don’t have much going on, and you know I’ll keep calling if you don’t answer.

Shira writes:
I was just having this conversation with my co-worker at school, and she used the same oxygen mask analogy. I think we were talking about her relationship with her 7-year-old daughter and mommy’s need for “me time” after work each day. Being the youngest in a family of five very strong personalities, it hasn’t been that easy to not become a doormat. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried not to let appeasing my family members get in the way of my own happiness.

Recently however, all I’ve really been thinking about is getting a full-time job and how happy that would make me. I’m not that interested in what everyone else has going on. Selfish? Maybe, but seriously, I deserve a contract.

Although I did not cry hysterical tears of joy when we booked tickets to Key West, it made me happy to know that everyone else was so happy to get the chance to go.

Alexis Writes:
I think you did a good job modeling happiness and still do. I don’t know that I do the best job of that for myself. I’m always worried about other people, including mortgage guys who really don’t care about me. Even Dad yelled at me the other day for being too nice. Cause no matter how old you get your parents can still yell at you. I get the oxygen mask theory but I still have a sneaking suspicion I would try to give that kid the mask first. I’m stronger so I could survive without air for longer. I guess that’s how it is for me, I think I can handle everything better than someone else. I think I often do things unselfishly because that does truly make me feel good. I once gave Tamra money to go on spring break. She was nervous about spending the money and I had the money to give, so I gave it to her. I had a good time when I went on spring break and I didn’t want her to miss it. Now I get to go to Key West on my 29th birthday (yes I said it, I am owning my last year in my twenties) and I am sure my lending the money had something to do with it even though it was many years ago. And I did cry tears of joy when I found out I was going.

I also really hope Shira gets a contract because she does deserve it.

So, yes I think you did a good job modeling and I still have to look at it once in a while because I am sometimes not sure how to get on my way to happiness.

Tamra Writes:
When dad paid Alexis for giving me the money to go on spring break, he gave her 100 dollars more than she gave me…so really, no good deed goes unselfish, doing things to feel good about yourself, totally selfish – (not saying it isn’t nice to do things for other people, I’m just saying, we do get something out of it, even if we don’t mean to).

Debby Writes:
Yes, there are often rewards for unselfish acts; sometimes you feel really good about what you did so that’s a reward. And, sometimes your parents hear about what you did and give you money! But, none of that makes the act any less valuable. What I’m saying, though, is that it’s all okay, it’s okay to put your happiness first, it’s okay if making others happy makes you happy too. It’s not okay to make others happy at your expense exclusively.

Shira writes:

If I make someone happy, can I have some money? You’re soooo good looking.



  1. Stopping by from SITS.

    First time on the blog–love the concept and you’ve got a beautiful family!

    Taking care of yourself first is always a good idea, it sort of goes along with the idea that to find friends you need to be friendly, yourself, first and that to truly love and be loved, you need to love yourself.

  2. Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you like the concept and the compliment about the girls is great, although the middle one says that with the $500 makeover they had the day of their sister’s wedding, anyone looks good.
    I agree about friends, though. It’s one of the lessons I’ve tried to teach the girls — friendships, good ones, are give and take situations and if you don’t give, you wont’ get. I also think you’re right about loving yourself. My mom used to say it was like the class elections — if you don’t vote for yourself, who would? If you don’t love yourself, who would?

  3. “If you want to be more loving and giving to them, start with loving and giving yourself first. ”

    No truer words were ever written….

    Stopping in from SITS, and so very very glad I did.

  4. Thanks for your kind words and I’m so glad you stopped by, too.

  5. I think I have always been a happy person (well, except those few short years when motherhood and working full time really got to me). BUT nothing and nobody gets in the way of my monthly bridge group and twice monthly mah jong group. I need those nights for myself. I’m trying to teach my daughter with the 4 kids that it’s OK to go to girl’s night. And I hate to admit it, but there are times I don’t answer my daughters’ calls either!

  6. If anyone needs girl’s night out, it’s a mom with 4 kids so I hope your daughter hears you! I totally agree about your time with your friends. My dinners with the ladies are invaluable. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

  7. Thanks so much for stopping by! Your daughters are all so beautiful! You must be a very proud mother. 🙂
    My mother raised 3 daughters, so I know what it is like to live in a house full of girls, but I’m living the opposite life now with my 4 sons. 🙂

  8. I can’t even imagine raising 4 sons but I love that you do it with humor and humility. (is there any other way?) Welcome to our blog, though and if you have 2 sisters, I suspect you can relate! Thanks for taking the time to check us out.

  9. I completely agree about the need for women to put themselves first – that’s something culture needs to embrace more!

  10. Yeah, we expect a lot of women in our culture. Probably because we’ve always done so much and given so much of ourselves that we “taught” the world to expect that of us. It’s time to take care of us as well as we take care of others. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment.

  11. I’m so glad you stopped by my blog this week so that I could learn of YOURS. What an interesting topic. I do agree that you need to have the air hostess attitude of help yourself first so you can be there for others. Sometimes it is hard to do bc our society, incl. at times our SO are trained to think “it’s all about them.” that gets old realllll fast. like being made to feel guilty by passive behaviors when you are trying to look out for yourself, now that is annoying
    AM NEW FOLLOWER, cheers.

  12. Welcome! And, you are so right about guilt. It is a waste of emotion and waste of time and totally annoying. Let’s banish it together. Thanks so much for checking in.

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