This I Believe

Sara - St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Entered on September 8, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

To assist others, you must love yourself

I believe it is important to be selfish. I was, of course, taught to be concerned with the welfare of others by my parents, school, and society, but I took those lessons too far. You see, I am a “people pleaser.” You say jump—I’ll ask how high. “No” is not in my vocabulary, and I actually enjoy holding doors open for extended lines of strangers. Basically, I love to make others happy.

Four summers ago, I was given the academic award at my eight-grade graduation, and, when I saw the pride of my family, I felt I had found my high-school niche. I began to think I was worthwhile to my loved ones only if I constantly pushed myself to greater levels of achievement. This false notion spilled from schoolwork into athletics and health; I strived to be the perfect person to exceed others’ misconceived expectations, and, in the process, I lost complete control. For five months, I barely saw my best friends, believing any fun was wasted time. I never rested. Instead, I constantly studied or ran, argued or cried. I became severely depressed, and ended up in the hospital for an eating disorder I didn’t even realize I had. I was in complete denial of my situation. Luckily, the people I almost killed myself trying to please were there for me. They supported me through treatment and reminded me that they loved me as me, not as a trophy or abstraction.

I am blessed to have had relatively little trouble leaving the center: my sickness was less about food and more about forgetting how to exist on my own terms. As I learned to relax and rediscovered my laugh, I created a fresh reality. I continue to work hard in school, but the effort now stems from my curiosity and love of learning, not from a desire for a grade or an award. I also still enjoy making others happy, but, foremost, I now focus on my own happiness. It is not possible to be productive without rest, and I have come to relish the short-vacation offered by a deep breath, a chat with a friend, a movie, or, simply, a moment of silence. “Me time”— be it with a good book or favorite sitcom—is vital. My friends and family have shared with me the distress they were under when I sick, and I have come to understand that I can please no one if I am not self-confident and happy with myself.