I come from a collective culture. A sense of community is central to who we are. We congregate for celebrations, to mourn, to organize. My family unit, though not terribly prone to sharing all of our feelings, watches out for its members. We take care of each other. We put the feelings of others first before our own.
I have been thinking a lot lately about this notion of collective consciousness. It brings with it great gifts: a sense of unmatched empathy, an urge to help those who suffer and an ability to organize ourselves around a cause.
I have also realized how difficult it can be to take yourself apart from this collective and to put your own feelings at the center of an experience.
In collective cultures, we are raised with the understanding that being overly concerned about how you feel is selfish in a way - self-centred at worst. We are often allowed to feel and mourn for a limited amount of time before we need to go back into the fold of our collective and to help those who are possibly suffering more than we are, or somehow need us to step up for them.
But when we limit our ability to process our own feelings and thoughts, we truncate our experiences in a way that is not beneficial to anyone in the long run. Not being able to put yourself at the center takes away parts of who you are, your ability to form ideas and judgments and your ability to provide skills to a greater cause.
It sounds wrong to me, and it always has to be self-centred. But redefining it in terms of self-consideration is much more helpful. When we are caught up in in something - be it some greater societal cause, a relationship, work - we don't take time to consider ourselves. To be self-centred, means being at the centre of your own experiences, to have the permission and capacity to own your own person. If you are tired and washed out, you have nothing to give. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
One of the greatest things that I have learned to do is replenish so that I don't negotiate parts of myself away. Those pieces of ourselves go slowly over time, without us noticing. Until at the end, we are left tired and depleted. We are, at the very end, not responsible for how others process and handle their own feelings. We are only responsible for how we react, process, and reflect back
Our ability to understand the plight and joy of others is perhaps one of the best things about us as a culture. In a time where we surely need it more, it bodes well to consider ourselves in equal measure as we consider others, to not criticize those who cope in different ways than us, and to understand that everyone is out to survive the only and best way they know how.
I continue to consider myself. I also take the opportunity to question myself and to be accountable to a better version of myself. I think if we all start considering ourselves, we will add to our collective humanity, the best parts of ourselves. And in the end, that's a collective everyone wants to be a part of.