One of the struggles that I often see with my clients, my friends, and within myself is the balance between caring for others and caring for ourselves. The dilemma of whose-needs-come-first is one that I am intimately familiar with as an Asian American woman. Both as a woman and as an Asian American, I was taught from a young age to put the needs of others before my own as the highest virtue. It sometimes feels impossible to give to myself what I so readily give to others (e.g., time, attention, compassion, love, rest). The reasons why it is so hard to balance self-care and caring for others can include: there isn't enough time or energy to do both, I would be selfish if I focused on my needs, I don't really deserve to be cared for, and I feel loved only when I am needed. What I have learned over time is that always putting other people's needs before my own is not a sustainable way to live and it is the fastest way to reach burn out, resentment, and the ending of a relationship. In this blog post, I want to present a different way of thinking about this struggle. Instead of framing it as an impossible and unending dilemma, it might be helpful to see it as a stage of growth and development that is very normal and very human.
Fairy tales, folktales, and mythology have traditionally been the messengers of moral lessons. Even the acculturated, modernized, and romanticized versions from Disney can provide some pearls of wisdom. There is nothing quit like a Disney movie to warm my heart and make me cry. I saw the new Disney movie Moana this weekend. Of course, it is full of the movie tropes and scripts that Disney is so well known for. The climax and ending are predictable and the cultural references are blended together and watered down. I won't go into a full critique of this movie as cultural appropriation as many writers have already done so here, here and here. I am just glad that the heroine is a person of color, which is a small step in the right direction.
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