By Deborah Gantos, Editor-In-Chief of Surplus Today

One of the articles in our August 2016 issue, “To Give or Not to Give,” concerns donations by store owners to charities and community organizations to help build good public relations. That got me thinking about the saying: “Charity begins at home.” So what exactly is charity? The thesaurus lists many meanings: help, aid, assistance, gifts, kindness, compassion and generosity, to name a few. What I want to write about is related to the last four definitions. It is the charity we need to give to ourselves.

There seems to be a fine balance between people who are “full of themselves” and those who neglect themselves. It is the latter group that I am writing about. As a life-long student of human nature and personality, I am going to guess that those of us who give every ounce of ourselves to other people, are probably firstborn children, the oldest of all the siblings, only children, or at least six years younger than other siblings. Another term for this individual is “family hero.” According to the research I have done, it makes no difference if it is a male or a female. In this role, the person strives to be the absolute best overachiever to earn parents’ praise. Typically, family heroes do well in everything they do: academics, sports, career, etc. Perfectionism tends to run rampant in this birth position.

Now that we have some background on what sometimes causes someone to be self-sacrificing vs. self-nurturing, let’s take a look at some ways to take care of ourselves and put ourselves first. First, realize that developing positive habits takes some time, so begin with something that is easy to achieve. Make a list of all the things you like to do. Next, separate them in the order of the things you enjoy that take only a few minutes. After you do that, finish your list with activities that take longer, like a trip to Hawaii.

Begin your self-nurturing with the top thing on your list. Do this pastime at the beginning of each day for three weeks (the time it takes to reinforce new habits). Suppose you really enjoy sitting near a window and watching the birds while drinking a cup of your favorite coffee. Try it for just ten minutes. Be sure to allow yourself this extra time so you do not stress out worrying about how you can get ready for work. Set out your clothes, get gas in the car, or buy your lunch to plan for this possible self-sabotage. At the end of the three-week period, start adding another self-indulging pursuit at the end of your day. Then add one of the longer activities that is achievable once a month. Finally, plan for your ultimate, longer-lasting joy once a year. Try it. You will be happier and maybe the people in your life will be happier too.