The most important way to be true to ourselves can't exclude the care for others.
When we look at the origins of the word “safe,” I think we find some meanings that aren’t too surprising:
“c. 1300, ‘unscathed, unhurt, uninjured…from Old French sauf ‘protected, watched-over; assured of salvation’”
But what happens if we keep exploring and consider the word “safe” when it comes to our own life and well-being, including the relationship we have with ourselves?
“As a quasi-preposition from c. 1300, on model of French and Latin cognates. From late 14c. as ‘rescued, delivered; protected…Meaning ‘not exposed to danger’”
I wish I could say that when I plan out my decisions in life, or consider the way I interact with myself, that if often leaves me “unhurt” or “protected” or “not exposed to danger.” I think a more honest reflection would show that I put myself in danger more than I like to admit. For some, that danger could be a physical danger or harm; for me, I’m referring to a sort of unprotected-ness that actually impacts not only myself but those around me. Here’s an example:
I think that one of the most common refrains in our Western American culture is, essentially, “Do what makes you happy.” Or as many would say, “You do you.” Now, doesn’t this sound and seem like self-protection? If I’m looking out for me and focused on how to keep myself “safe,” why wouldn’t I do whatever I need to do?
But what happens when you doing you, makes me feel unsafe? Or hurts my feelings? Then who is being “safe” and who is being harmful? I think this circular kind of reasoning is one of the least effective methods for caring for ourselves (and others, for that matter). Here’s another example:
A very common refrain in many non-Western cultures is “Ubuntu,” which means, “I am because we are.” Now, this might not sound like self-protection – how can I look after myself if I have to be concerned with you? But that is exactly the point: I can only be authentically and genuinely and safely me, if I am also looking after and considering you. Who I am doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
Sometimes the safest thing I can do to protect and care for myself is to be authentic with others about how their actions impact me. Sometimes I need to consider myself by giving to someone else, because what I truly need (and what would make me healthy) is to look outside of myself. Staying safe and being true to myself, cannot happen by overlooking the needs and interests and voices of others. “You do you” is actually one of the most dangerous things we could ever do.
With you and for you,