Permission to be selfish sometimes [it will get you far]

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.


This past week, during my travels, I had the opportunity to sit (and sleep) on a lot of airplanes.


Plane travel is one of those things in life, like a hangnail, laundry, or sitting in traffic, that is just downright annoying (to me).


  • Hurry up and wait.
  • Cramped conditions.
  • ‘Surprise’ fees (“Your bag weighs 2 lbs. over the limit”—that’s why I fly Southwest!). Dry air.
  • Bad food.
  • Disheveled hair.
  • Random delays.
  • Wanting to shower.


Try as I may to put a positive spin on plan travel, it is not one of my favorite things.


That being said, however, there is always a silver lining: I always manage to learn something new and/or meet someone new during travels.


Inevitably, every time I take my seat on the plane, I vow up and down that I am going to use the next 2-3 hours stuck in the air to ‘be productive’: to read, write, create. And, inevitably, I always end up talking to the person next to me (lucky them).


I love people. Love hearing their ‘stories’—and it is often in these moments where my great classroom of Plane Learning occurs.


This particular leg of my trip, I found myself in a middle seat, sandwiched between two rather large gentlemen who were business partners based in Austin.


They were headed to Atlanta on business, and even before take-off, we began chatting away about…life goals, dreams, visions (I go deep quick).



The man sitting to my left instantly opened up.


In his late 60’s, he admitted his health, most recently, had not been doing so well.


“I just had an appointment with my cardiologist and the cheeseburgers and French fries I like to eat are apparently not doing my heart any good,” he said. Adding, “I still work full-time, have six grandkids, and three kids, and I certainly want to be around a lot longer than my family history has projected.”


“So what are you doing about that?” I asked.


“Well…something of the nature about eating ‘better’. I’ve been eating low fat options, drinking Diet Cokes instead of regular soda, and ordering salads for lunch. I also started to do the cardio machines more—I get pretty lazy…but it’s just so hard to do sometimes,” he said.



“You know what?” I said… “It doesn’t have to be.”


I began to educate him around the simplicity of eating real food, drinking lots of water, and finding joy in movement—as opposed to feeling deprived or dreading exercise.


  • Healthy fat is your friend (not your foe)
  • Drink ½ your bodyweight in ounces of water each day
  • And for every 8 ounces of diuretics you drink (coffee, Diet Coke), you need 12 ounces more of water
  • You actually need more food to lose body fat, not less
  • Slavery to the elliptical or treadmill is not the key to unlocking exercise success
  • Digestion is key to getting a
  • And on, and on…


(Good nutrition and exercise seems to be a predominating theme for self-care).


“Really? Fat is good for me? I need how much water?! I don’t have to feel hungry all the time?”


He was amazed what these unconventional steps for self-care could do for his lifestyle, his goals and longevity.


(#lightbulb moment)



As we continued our conversation, and our plane began to push back down from the gate, the ‘broken record’ of plane safety information and stewardess demonstration commenced.


“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Southwest Airlines Flight 1467, service to Dallas. If you could turn your attention to the front of the cabin, we’d like to go over a few safety tips as we depart for our destination…”


And, as the rest of the 126 passengers passed out in their seats, played with their phones (in non-Airplane mode) and stuck their noses in their books, I, for once, decided to turn my attention to the stewardesses.


They talked about how to fasten our seatbelts, use our call-buttons and overhead lights and, in case of emergency…(you know the drill)…use the oxygen mask.



If you’ve ever flown before, you’ve heard this speech one hundred times:


“If we suddenly lose air pressure in the cabin, an oxygen mask will drop down from above you, and you will need to place the mask over your mouth and nose while continuing to breathe ‘normally’ (does ‘normally’ really happen in this situation?…i.e. ‘hypervenalation’?!).”


One phrase of caution, as well: “If you are seated next to a child or someone else who does not know how to use the mask, first, place your mask over YOUR mouth and nose in order to breathe, then help the person next you.”


Heard that before?


Sure you have.


So have I.


But this particular day, these ‘words of wisdom’ stuck out to me more than most.


In order to help others, and in order to give whatever it is you do your ALL, you must, FIRST, HELP YOURSELF.


You have to place your mask on before you can be any good to helping others with their own mask.


In each of our lives, we are all called to take action; all called to our own mission—a passion, a calling, a ministry, a population or cause, a startup, a leadership position, a stance, a job.


For the gentlemen sitting next to me, in order to live his life to the fullest…he had begun to realize that he needed to take care of himself (in order to do his job, help others, love on his grandkids, live long and prosper, etc.).


And for you…in order to experience the MOST out of your life and , as crazy as it sounds, you must FIRST take care of yourself:


  • Are you getting enough sleep?
  • How is your nutrition—are you fueling your body adequately?
  • Are you working out appropriately for your body and your health?
  • Are you ‘feeding’ your heart with the things you LOVE to do?
  • Are you pursuing your dreams and passions?
  • Are you connecting with community/others?
  • Are you spiritually fulfilled?
  • Are you taking much-needed breaks from the go-go-go or work-work-work mentality?


Just some questions to ponder…


Take a look at the classic pyramid of your basic human needs, according to Maslow (a ‘guru’ in the field of Psychology)…



As you can see, self-care (food, water, sleep) is the foundation upon which all the other factors of your own personal needs stand.


Put on your oxygen mask.



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