Are you a hard working woman who often feels exhausted, stressed, overwhelmed, overworked, or like you will never catch up or get to the fun stuff that you really want to do? Did your latest self-improvement plan fall by the wayside because other stuff got in the way?
In spite of your considerable strengths, talents, and accomplishments, you may find that when it comes to creating the work-life balance that works for you, achieving your personal goals, or squeezing the juice out of life, you just aren’t getting where you want to go—or if you are, it isn’t nearly as enjoyable a ride as it could be.
It’s not unusual for smart hard working women to notice a difference between their sense of effectiveness and success in their professional lives and the care they take of others, and in the care, time, and results they experience with their personal goals, projects, and pursuits. Many women believe they have no choice but to sacrifice themselves for their other responsibilities. Self-care falls off their radar.
Contrary to what you may be thinking, it doesn’t have to be an “either or” choice. In fact, those who really thrive professionally and interpersonally are the women who’ve learned to take the best care of themselves and carve out the time and the experiences that allow them to be at their best.
Interestingly, most of us know that. At least, it’s the advice that we give to others. Most women I know, including those who are the hardest on themselves, are the first to go to bat for another’s needs or to step forward with compassion or empathy or a warm hug—for someone else.
A question I often ask my clients is: “Are you taking your own advice?” I’m betting that you have great inner wisdom about what you need and about how to nurture yourself in the direction that you want to go. Unfortunately, many women are much better at dishing out this good medicine than they are at taking it.
Here are three ways women often ignore their own wisdom and get in their own way:
- Would you talk to your mother with that mouth? I bet you are generally a very nice woman. You may be full of words of encouragement and tact and have probably developed some excellent verbal skills for nurturing others. Have you ever stopped to listen to the soundtrack that plays in your head? I’m talking about the constant banter that you carry on with yourself. We all do it. We talk ourselves through tasks. We talk ourselves into things (and out of them). We talk to ourselves when we’ve had a hard day or when we are facing a challenge. And we talk to ourselves when we succeed.If you could download it and play it back, what would your soundtrack sound like? Is it full of encouragement, acknowledgment of the things you’ve accomplished, gratitude, and an optimistic attitude? Or, like many busy women, is your soundtrack often tired, cranky, intolerant, and on the judgmental side? Do you call yourself names like lazy, dumb, fat, or ugly or push yourself beyond the point of reason, or ignore your pleas for rest, help, or a time out? Now really. Would you talk to your mother or your best friend the way you speak to yourself? Would you encourage anyone the way your inner coach speaks to you? If the answer isn’t yes, you’re a smart woman and you know you need to clean up your act.
- Do you tell your friend to stop whining and work harder when what she really needs is a big hug and some breathing space? I doubt it. But many high achievers tend to adopt this kind of strategy toward themselves. If you are someone who is a firm believer in the care and nurturing of others but are only paying lip service to this in your own life, you have some work to do. If working harder is your primary success strategy, it’s time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Start by applying the wisdom you dole out to those you care about. You know–about taking good care of yourself, taking a break, making sure you get enough rest and good things to eat. If you were your own best friend, what would you be insisting on and encouraging for you? It’s time to step up and start listening to your own good advice.
- Do you blow off the work presentation, your child’s soccer game, or your friend who needs you because you “just don’t have time?” Hardly. Most busy women I know are not only caring, they are organizational geniuses. I’ve seen mothers find a way to be in two places at once and women juggle a major presentation, a home remodel, a relationship crisis and half a dozen other challenges. And still. So many high achievers can’t make it to the gym or find the time to shop for the healthy food or carve out the time to take that yoga class they really crave. They forget what they know and tell themselves that they are too busy to fit themselves in. Are you so busy being spectacular that you’ve forgotten to leverage your strengths and talents in service of YOU? If so, I guarantee you are paying a price that is far bigger than the time it would cost you to schedule yourself.
There really is no point in living life with one hand tied behind your back. Why not start using your own advice and applying your own wisdom instead of living by a different set of standards that you apply only to yourself?
Take good care,