Protecting yourself is an essential part of what it is to be human. The response of shielding yourself from harm or death is an instinctive one.

Preserving your life is a natural desire. This instinct may be demonstrated in a variety of ways such as removing your hand from a hot stove, avoiding a dangerous place, or locking your doors.

Self-preservation is clearly triggered by pain. In fact, without some degree of pain or fear, you may not survive. Pain and fear draw your attention to people, places, and things that threaten you in some way. If, for example, you were in an accident or suffered some type of trauma, you would naturally avoid those situations that brought you the suffering associated with it.

Self-preservation becomes more complex and nuanced when it comes to personal connections. Let’s say you are in a relationship with someone who repeatedly treats you poorly. Your life may not be at stake, but you realize that your joy is regularly stolen from you. Out of a sense of self-preservation, you may have to exit that relationship. It gets quite complicated when you love someone but realize you can no longer tolerate the toxic environment.

Sometimes self-preservation can get a bad rap. In certain situations, it can clearly be out-of-balance. For instance, in an organization where layoffs are being considered, leaders and others can find themselves in a “me first” mentality instead of fairly considering the needs of everyone. If you have an “it’s me or them” mindset, your objectivity is lost, and it places others’ self-preservation in jeopardy. Where is the line?

If you give and give until you give out, all of the plates you are spinning will fall. Ultimately, self-preservation is essential for you in fulfilling your purpose and destiny. By preserving yourself in balance with the needs of others, you grow to become the best person you can be.