Putting Your Own Mask On First

If you’ve ever paid attention to the safety demonstration on an airplane, there is the part where they talk about what to do in case of a loss of cabin pressure. You are instructed to reach for the oxygen masks, to pull to extend the tubing, and to secure the mask over your nose and mouth. Then they give you a very important piece of advice, which is to put your own mask on first, BEFORE helping others.

That last piece of advice is important not only in case of an airline emergency. It is an important piece of advice that we can apply in our everyday lives. If we’re not taking care of and looking after ourselves, how can we expect to care for and help others?



I started meditating on a regular basis a couple of years ago. Why I started is a question for another time, but the practice has helped me to become more aware of my own self-talk, that little voice that talks to each of us all. day. long.

Becoming aware of that voice and those thoughts made me aware of just how critical I was towards myself. It made me aware that the the judgmental actions and behaviors that I was exhibiting towards others were the same behaviors I was exhibiting towards myself. In turn I realized that if I was going to be more accepting of others, that I would first need to be more accepting of myself.

See the analogy? To help others, I needed to first help myself. This concept applies across all sorts of situations.

To accept those around you for who they are, you need to treat yourself with more empathy and be more accepting of who you are.

To care for others, you need to learn how to nurture and care for yourself.

To forgive others, you have to be able to forgive yourself, which allows others to forgive you, and for you to accept their forgiveness.

To be a friend to others, you have to be a friend to yourself.

To be patient with others, you have to be patient with yourself.

To be kind to others, you need to be kind to yourself.

To celebrate others’ success, you have to be open and willing to celebrating your own successes.

To comfort others and guide them through grief, you have to be able to accept and deal with your own sorrow.

To love others, you have to be able to love yourself.

And the list goes on.

So am I done with meditating? Do I feel like I’ve arrived at my destination? Hardly.

Managing my mind and spirit is a journey, and I need to work on these concepts every day. Just like I have to exercise and watch my diet daily to stay physically fit and healthy, I need to meditate, study, and read daily to train my mind and spirit. In other words, there isn’t an end, and I will never be perfect. It’s not about focusing on the destination, it’s about embracing and enjoying the journey. By looking for meaning, we miss the discovery, which is the most important part of the process, with the emphasis on process.

Most of all, what I’ve learned through this process is if I want to help and be there for others, especially those closest to me, I need to put my own mask on first and help myself. Then I can be there for others.


By the way, in putting together this post, I didn’t realize how entertaining the airlines are trying to make these safety demonstration videos. It’s quite a bit different than having flight attendants stand in the aisles doing a live demonstration, which is what I’ll always remember. Oh, the good old days!