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The Airplane Rule: Why Self-Love Has Nothing To Do With Being Selfish

“Much of your strength as a woman can come from the resolve to replenish and fill your own well and essence first, before taking care of others.” – Miranda J. Barrett

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If you have flown on a commercial flight before, you will most probably find the following scenario familiar:

You have finally boarded the plane, stuffed your (unwieldy) bags into the storage area above your seat and, as the Crew steps into the corridor to announce the emergency instructions, you start reading one of the magazines lying about….

No! Of course we all listen intently as the emergency instructions are presented by the pulling at, and blowing into, of various objects. In this context, there is one particular instruction concerning oxygen masks that I would like to draw your attention to:

“The cabin pressure is controlled for your comfort. However, should it change radically in flight oxygen compartments will automatically open in the panel above your seat. Reach up and pull the mask to your face. […] If you are travelling with children, or are seated next to someone who needs assistance, place the mask on yourself first, then offer assistance. […]”1

I have spent many years listening to – but not hearing –  the underlying truth and scope of that one particular instruction:

Only once I have taken care of myself first, will I be able to tend to the needs of others.

If I suffocate to death while struggling to help someone else don their oxygen mask– nobody has been helped. Well, the other person has, but I still die; that is clearly not a win-win situation. Additionally, as I am ME, dying is like the worst thing that could happen, as a result of helping someone else.

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Look For The Awesomeness Of Others & Learn To Find It Within Yourself (When Self-love Still Feels Hard)

“I’m looking for a world where love will no longer be extraordinary.” – Patch Adams

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Untitled-1hen I used to commute to school, I spent a lot of time waiting for trains at the Munich central station. I always had a book with me, or some other form of distraction, to keep myself entertained.

Sometimes, however, I just sat there and watched the people around me.

Munich central station is a huge place, and it is needless to say that hundreds and hundreds of people frequent it every day. I used to (and still do) love imagining how many ‘coincidences’ had brought us all into each other’s lives in that particular moment, as we stood waiting at the platform.

As I looked at all these people, I started playing a little game with myself. The game had two rules:

  1. I had to find one thing I liked about every person I looked at
  2. Even if there was nothing, I had to look until I could find something

Sometimes what I liked was a handbag, a haircut, a smile, or a certain colour someone was wearing. Other times, I admired the courage someone was demonstrating by dressing radically different, or the openness with which someone responded to my gaze and smiled back at me.

It could be something I loved about their body, their clothes, or the way they behaved in this weird situation; a situation in which hundreds of people were crammed onto one narrow platform, trying not to look at or interact with anyone.

And, even if there was nothing I instantly liked about someone, I accepted the challenge of finding something anyway.

It has been nearly eight years since the first time I started playing this game, and I never thought that it would have such a big impact on me.

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