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I used to think that the best thing you could do in the world is help someone else, completely selflessly, without expecting anything in return. Don't get me wrong, I still believe this is incredibly important. But something else now tops it in my life- being self reliant, and finding joy in your own life.

When I lived by my first belief, I was constantly talking to others and spending my time learning the most effective ways to help them, even if it was just listening. I learned how to validate people, and help them discover what they needed to do to get back on the right track. I would stay up until ungodly hours of the morning talking to my friends, because I actively sought out and made friends with people that were depressed. But during all of this, though I felt good about the people I had helped, I was also repressing a lot of resentment.

People don't always recognize the sacrifices you make for them, let alone return them. I was putting so much into other people that I was creating a nearly impossible standard for what it meant to care. All of my relationships were unbalanced, because I gave much more than the people I helped were able to return. And so I secretly was unable to feel good about what I was doing. I was depressed myself, and because I was so convinced that selflessness was the only way to go, I wouldn't accept help. I wasn't getting enough sleep, and about once a month I would get really, really angry at the people I talked to for not caring about me.

But the thing is, I made them like that. If they ever tried to care about me, I said I was fine, don't worry about it. And though they were grateful, no one is really able to think about much other than their own problems when they're depressed. I wished someone would talk to me like I talked to them, saying they were okay, but what about me? But the people I talked to weren't capable of that. I was unhappy. And when I flipped out, I was a burden.

So I decided to rethink my policy. Without abandoning my old friends, I started to make new ones that I could just have a conversation with, without them mentioning how much their life sucks. I spent less time with the people that sucked the energy out of me and more time with the people that made me feel alive. I started to get more sleep, do my art more often, and do more things I thought were fun. People commented that I looked a lot happier, and I was. I was also still able to talk to the people that needed someone to listen, but now I felt no resentment. This was something I did, but it wasn't the only thing I could get happiness from, and so I didn't expect them to make me happy.

And weirdly, I was more effectively helping the people I wanted to help. People took my example and started to be more self-reliant. And I knew what to tell them to try now. I was able to be completely honest when I told them I didn't mind helping them.

Helping others is really important. Everyone needs a hand sometimes. And it is gratifying to know that you've helped someone out. But it's also really important to help yourself. Complete selflessness requires, as the name implies, losing yourself. You really can't effectively make others feel good if what you're doing is hurting you. Looking out for yourself isn't bad, because in most cases, you're the only one who can do it. The person who knows what you need best is you.

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