Look Out for Numero Uno

Part 4 of series: How to Get What You Want

#4: Allow yourself some you time.

Have you ever heard someone say with disgust, “Aw, he’s just looking out for numero uno”? Typically this references a guy who is just out to serve himself and doesn’t care much about those around him; but he may be the smart one!

I have quite a few bad habits I am working to break. One of these is giving so much to others that I don’t allow time to get refueled myself.

Imagine this: You are about to go on a cross country road trip you have been planning for months. You fuel up, purchase a Diet Coke and Snickers, dial in your iPod to your road trip playlist and start crankin’ Starship’s hit “We Built this City.” You are ready to rock and roll. You make a few quick turns and soon you are on the highway. Yehaw! Not even five miles into your trip, you see someone on the side of the road standing next to an idle car. As you get closer, you realize, “Hey, that’s Uncle Bob! I better stop and see if he needs help.” You pull over and after a moment of discussion, you find that Uncle Bob ran out of gas. You offer to give him some of yours to help him get on his way. Fifteen minutes later you are back on the road again. Then, not even ten miles further and you spot another car parked along the side of the road. This time it’s your neighbor, Gary. He has a flat tire. Thankfully, you have the tools in your vehicle to help him get his spare installed. Gary is appreciative and offers to treat you to lunch at the next exit. You know you have a road trip planned, but Gary insists, so you oblige him. These road trip interruptions progress and you continue to give your resources until soon you are out of gas, money, food and energy! What good is a car if it doesn’t have gas!

To be successful, we need to be sure we are filling our own tanks and creating boundaries for ourselves. I am not saying to never help another person again, but to be aware of how much you give to others. We need gas to function properly. My gas comes from grabbing coffee at Starbucks with my friend Shelbe or sitting alone in my reading room with a fall scent candle burning and sipping hot tea. Sometimes my gas comes from breaking out into a jig in my bedroom. Whatever it is, make sure you are staying fueled. It’s okay to be selfish and look out for numero uno.

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14 thoughts on “Look Out for Numero Uno

  1. This … is… excellent advice.

    I think that, as women, we have a tendency (because we’ve been taught to, OK I admit it) to stop and take care of everyone else first. Often, we get our self-worth from our roles in service to others. I’m all about being a team player but I’m not about to carry the team.

    Very good advice and … love that song 🙂 MJ

    • Ooooooh yeah. MJ, this is GOOD STUFF! I am beginning to learn that my identity and my value does not depend on what I can do for others. It’s really tough to get away from this because I have believed it for years.

      I like that song too… it randomly came to mind while I was writing the blog, so I thought I’d include it in there. 😉

  2. That was a GREAT story… analogy… whatever. You had me laughing while I read that.

    I realized I was giving away my gas, my spare tires, my energy, and my time too much in high school. And there was one guy in particular that REALLY took advantage of it. I put up a boundary. And lost a friend. Or someone I thought was a friend, but was more of a user than anything else.

    Now, I pour my heart into those who are actively going after things. And I’ll keep helping up until the point I want it more than them and it’s more my effort keeping things going than there’s.

    And I agree whole heartedly with how you started this. If you don’t look out for yourself no one else will either. You don’t have to be a jerk about it, but you do have to do it.

    • Oh wow. Ivan – excellent point – “I’ll keep helping up until the point I want it more than them and it’s more my effort keeping things going than theirs.” I needed to hear that. I struggle with feeling like I am abandoning these “types” if I don’t keep helping them. But it ends up wearing me out and stressing me out and I find myself doing all the work on someone else’s issue/relationship. Thanks for that new perspective!

  3. I don’t disagree. We most definitely should look out for ourselves, our children, those closest to us. No one looks out for us. Unfortunately, I believe we’ve taken the notion to inhuman lengths/depths. We subjugate and humiliate others in order to further our goals and careers. There are a lot more “jerks” in the world than those just looking out for themselves. Makes me very sad.

    • Hi Joe, thanks for your perspective! Just curious if you have ideas on how to create boundaries for yourself when others begin to take advantage of you. I’m working on creating some boundaries myself and would love to hear any thoughts you have on this.

      • No big revelation, but it’s unhealthy to feel taken advantage of. I have no problem saying “no.” For me, it’s much worse if I agree — then resent it. It just festers. Conversely, I truly appreciate the opportunity to help people in need…esp if I have the time…which I do right now because I’m not working. (See previous comment about work-related subjugation/humiliation and power trips.) I think we’re on earth to look out for each other. Ergo, no boundaries per se. Just the ability to say “no” when necessary.

    • Nice! Although I am not a mom, I do know mothers who have taken on this role. It may also have to do with personality style. I am intrigued by personality types and the theory of the Enneagram suggests that this sort of behavior can be found in Style #2: The Helper. (http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/)

      I am completely amused by personality traits and styles. This may be a good post for the future. 🙂

      • Interesting!

        from the Enneagram website:
        “We have named personality type Two The Helper because people of this type are either the most genuinely helpful to other people or, when they are less healthy they are the most highly invested in seeing themselves as helpful. Being generous and going out of their way for others makes Twos feel that theirs is the richest, most meaningful way to live. The love and concern they feel—and the genuine good they do—warms their hearts and makes them feel worthwhile.”

  4. Alana, this is a fantastic post; I often find that I will berate myself for not helping someone and usually its a sort of guilt trip, making me feel very selfish and ultimately putting myself into the position to help everyone and everything in my path in the next run. It’s great to know that I’m not the only one struggling with the saying “no” situation when someone gives me puppy dog eyes.

    • haha. Thanks Susan! Yes, I tend to go to extremes – I either say “yes” to everyone or “no” to everyone. Perhaps a good way to approach this is to look at each opportunity individually and ask a few questions: 1). If I do this, will it add value to their life? 2). Will it add value to mine? 3). Does this person have a tendency to use and abuse me?

      I think it is very important to help those in our “community” (aka. circle of friends, family, etc.) but I am also learning the importance of making sure that I’m fueled up too!

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