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Jay-Z Wants You To Put Yourself First

You can’t take care of others if you don’t care for yourself

“God I work hard, please don’t envy me

I paid the cost to be the boss to floss this hard” — Jay-Z, “Come And Get Me”

What’s good, everyone? We’ve got another edition of ya’ favorite weekly column with the homies here at Medium, “What Would Hov Do?”

Each week, you send me questions on life, love, or whatever’s on your mind. And every week, I sift through them with the help of lyrics from the big homie. My column is literally the embodiment of the phrase,“Hov did that, so hopefully you wouldn’t have to go through that.”

If you’ve got an issue that you think you can solve with a little boost from myself and Jiggaman, drop your question here on the low low — nobody gon’ know it was you, promise.

This week, we’ve got a question from “I Wanna Be Selfish:”

“I’ve recently been struggling with putting myself first. My whole life I’ve put everyone before me. I would like advice on how I can learn to put myself first — I feel like I won’t achieve my goals if I continue like this.”

When I’m on a flight (or when we all used to all be on flights. Remember those? Good times.) I love listening to the flight attendants walk through the safety instructions they’ve served countless fliers. They tell us how to use the oxygen masks; we have to put ours on before attempting to help others with their own. It’s generally the simplest way to explain what it looks like in real-time to put your own needs before the needs of others — it can be a matter of life or death.

There’s a lot we can extract from those Hov bars from “Come And Get Me,” a gem of a record off the often-debated Volume 3… Life and Times of S. Carter. Was this album any good? How good or bad was it? Lil’ Wayne has his own thoughts.

The song itself is as gaudy and disrespectfully-street as Hov has delivered on any record to date, and the lyrics could fall under several topics. But for the sake of this particular question, it’s really the use of the first-person that pushed me to use it to frame this conversation. It’s less about envy; Jay tells us it was him and him alone who did the work to get where he wanted and needed to be. And that came at a cost for sure, but it was still about the “me first” attitude that had to do with not putting anyone else ahead of what he knew would be paramount. So, I gotta take care of me before I can take care of we.

There is no healthy community if we are not feeding ourselves first. There is no cup to runneth over if the cup we pour from is not full of love, promise, and opportunity. We HAVE to pour into ourselves.

The idea that we can hold space for both is true: We can be selfish in our needs and wants while also showing up for those we care for. It’s not a foreign concept.

And we won’t get it perfect all the time. But, we can increase the likelihood that we can be of better service when we focus on what we need. That kind of self-care can differ from person to person — it could be journaling, making a fire playlist, a long walk, a workout, or a bath. It could be a good book or even a nap (ask the Nap Ministry). It could just be catching up and laughing with friends. It could be playing a video game or adopting a rescue animal.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made it even more imperative for us to work on taking care of ourselves while we learn how to heal and have self-compassion for sometimes falling short.

You have everything to gain and nothing to lose by putting yourself first. There is no ego involved when we pivot from, “I need to take care of everyone I love” to “When I take care of myself, I can better take care of everyone I love.” You’ll be better, and your community will be better — trust me. And if you don’t believe me, just ask Hov.

For the newbies out there, feel free to get familiar with some of my previous Medium work here. And here. Oh, and here, too. Submit any WWHD questions here while you’re at it.

he/him. i tell stories for black people. work: @taylorstrategy @nike @twitter @gatesfoundation @ted @hbo @ethelsclub @medium @newsweek @twloha #BXFOREVER

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