If you've been on a plane before, you've heard the in-flight safety speech. Exits here and here, don't panic, stay buckled, seat is a flotation device, etc. But what I want to bring your attention to is the part about cabin pressure. If cabin pressure falls, masks will fall down. You're supposed to secure your own mask before helping anyone else, such as a child or a nearby passenger.
I think this is the perfect metaphor when it comes to relationships and balancing our responsibilities. I don't think this is license to be a self-involved, conceited, narcissistic prick. However, part of being a healthy, responsible adult is being able to value our own needs and give deference to them.
Too often we put other people first when our own cabin pressure is falling (and our stressors are flying in from every direction). Then there's the Second Arrow, a Buddhist idea that when we suffer, we add insult to that injury by deriding ourselves on top of the initial suffering. The first arrow could be that you're overweight. The second arrow would be that you feel you're not valuable as a person to be healthy, or you deserve nourishing food, or that you don't deserve to take up space in this world. In Western terms -- we add insult to injury.
I want to see a change in society, a movement perhaps, of people being okay with putting themselves first, and not feeling external/internal pressure, guilt, or remorse for doing it. That's what I've decided I need to do. I went to bed last night thinking "Tomorrow, I'm going to take care of myself." I woke up thinking "Today, I'm going to give attention to the thoughts and feelings that come up within myself. I'm going to nurture myself even if no one else is going to do it." And you know what? It feels damn good. Thich Nhat Hanh once wrote that anger (though I'm going to use it to describe all emotions) is like a child crying for its mother. The mother holds the child until the acute emotion has passed, and then lets go. I realized I never get a chance to live in that emotion, and that's why I often don't have the ability to let it go.
Being mindful of other people does not mean you vanish. On the contrary, when you are mindful of yourself, knowing your own gravity, needs, wants, thoughts, emotions, etc. you are better able to mind other people. You know when someone's entered your orbit in a positive way, and you know when they've crashed into it. And you're able to note it, and act on it.