Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

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My first article for Ms. In the Biz was about taking a break from LA and my acting dream in order to control the crazy. I talked about the importance of figuring out what was holding you back from following your dreams, naming that craziness, and facing it head on. Now, two years later, my initial version of crazy is in check, I have learned many things, and I have done my darndest to share them with you all.

I have discussed the ways in which the entertainment industry directly correlates to any other business, the importance of taking calculated risk and ROI, and the ways to break out of our shell and create long lasting relationships even in the most unlikely places. Now, I want you to turn your focus inwards. The main thing I have learned over the past two years is how challenges continue to emerge much like a wack-a-mole machine. You conquer one, and two more pop up in its place. I conquered my initial crazy and realized that something I have always struggled with, took its prominent place in my life.

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Every year, for as long as I can remember, the core to my New Year’s resolution was the same: learn how to take care of myself better. Hi my name is Deborah and I am a fixer. I always played that role in my family and it has completely played into my personal and professional life, sometimes to my detriment.

When you are on a plane, the flight attendant always says, “Place your own mask on first, before assisting others.” I have not been following those instructions and have been helping others until I am gasping for my own final bit of oxygen needed to sustain my life. This stops today. With all the happenings in the past month, in our country and my own private life, I have realized the importance of following my dreams with a wild abandon. Our life and our time is short and precious. Of course, being selfless is important. I am not telling you to yank away the oxygen mask from your neighbor, but rather put on your own mask first so you are better able to help others. Fill yourself up with oxygen.

So, how am I going to accomplish this monumental task? How will I control this new personal version of crazy? To start, I am going to set goals for the new years with concrete ways I can focus on myself. For example, instead of just saying that I will focus on myself, I am going to ask myself how. How can I make myself feel special and loved and important? How can I take concrete steps towards my personal and professional goals? I will set goals that can be physically checked off every month to keep myself accountable. I will also find things about myself that I love, and focus on those qualities and accomplishments. I think a lack of self-love is a real problem in our culture and I want to banish that from my life. If I change my mindset, I will allow myself to be happy, loved, a tiny bit selfish, and successful because I will actually begin to believe that I am worthy of those things.

How does self-love, putting yourself first, and controlling the craziness all relate? I think that I often help support others and put others’ dreams in front of my own because I have a lack of respect or belief in my own goals. I am not being purposefully self-destructive but I am showing myself and the world that my time is only valuable to someone else and this stops now. As creatives it is important to be reflective of the world around us but also of our personal journey in our work. We are telling truthful stories and if our personal truth is colored with a lack of respect for ourselves and our time, then the story is not as raw and as prevalent as it could be. Focus on your importance and self-love and it will improve your work as an artist and a storyteller.

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Over the past two years I have realized that it is impossible to control the crazy because the crazy just keeps coming. That mole will still keep popping up his cute little head, just asking to be smashed back into the hole. And here is the thing: that is ok because as long we are playing the game, those are the rules. Those challenges will still pop up, and we will do our best to put on our own oxygen mask first, and then assist others, so we can follow our dreams full of oxygen and self-love.

Deborah Smith

About Deborah Smith

Actress/ Blogger/Storyteller - Deborah is the ultimate girl next door/ gal pal but don’t underestimate her wit or brains. Originally from Los Angeles, she fell in love with the Bay Area while attending UC Berkeley in English and Theater. Since she caught the travel bug, she moved to Australia to pursue her Master’s Degree in Film Production and Marketing. Five years, and one Aussie boyfriend later, she has worked in the Australian film industry while starting a construction surveying company and her own marketing/web design freelance business. She has returned to Los Angeles to continue building characters, chase her dream of becoming a superhero, and write about powerful historical women whose tales’ go unheard!