The Oxygen Mask Dilemma
Imagine you’re on a plane, and there’s one of those emergencies where the oxygen masks pop out from the ceiling, and you need to put one on. According to the flight safety cards and videos, as well as the demonstrations conducted by the air hostesses, you are supposed to put on your oxygen masks before you assist anyone, even if you’re sitting next to a child.
I used to think that was ridiculous: what parent or, just in general, what human being would think about their own safety and well-being before thinking about a child’s safety or well-being? But then I got thinking: if the plane really was in a serious crisis, it wouldn’t exactly help the child if you pass out due to lack of oxygen whilst putting an oxygen mask over their mouth. Better to quickly and efficiently put the oxygen mask on your mouth, so that you are at least in a comfortable state to put one over a child’s mouth.
This got me thinking of another principle: helping others in any other way. No, I am not saying you need to literally provide yourself with oxygen to help someone else. Rather, let’s replace oxygen with something a little more abstract: happiness. Think about it: how on earth are you supposed to help someone in a way that will result in them being happy with some aspect of their life (whether it be love, making amends with someone or even something like getting a job) when you are not in a good place yourself? I’m not saying you can’t help them if you’re not happy; rather I am saying that you can’t truly feel happy about helping someone if you’re not feeling good about yourself.
What I guess I am trying to convey here is the fact that in order to help anyone else in your life, you need to first make sure that your own needs are satisfied. You need to feel sure about yourself to some extent before you can help someone else.
I am aware that, on the other hand, you tend to make more rational and realistic judgements about situations when you are not feeling so good and happy about yourself and life in general. But remember, this is about YOU. This is about how YOU’RE feeling, not anyone else. And let’s face it, unless the person you are trying to help, for some bizarre reason, is someone you resent deeply and they aren’t so fond of you either, no one that you are trying to help will want to see you upset or struggling to help them. They would want you to be happy too, while you help them out with their predicament.
Back to the plane: what kid wants their parent to pass out while they try to help them out?