This week I’m continuing to share “gold medal” excuses—excuses that stop us in our tracks and can get us VERY stuck in the pursuit out of overwhelm, away from overeating, and toward our best lives.
Many women get to be so busy and successful (in part) because they are so darn good at taking care of other people. A talent for nurturing is a great skill, and many of us have lots of practice at being kind, responsible, caring, and aware of the needs of others.
The problem: some women are so busy nurturing others that they’ve forgotten how (or don’t feel entitled) to nurture themselves. All that great caring, compassion and attention gets focused outward and very little energy is left over for replenishing. Giving away all our best stuff to others—because they need us–is a path that leads to depletion. All the energy gets paid out and not enough fuel comes in to allow us to really be at our best. The irony—when WE aren’t at our best, we don’t have our best to give. In the long run, everyone—including those whose care we prioritize—has to settle for second best.
You may have people in your life who DO need you. A lot. I’m not disputing that, but having others need us doesn’t cancel out our own needs. Acknowledging this reality creates some dilemmas, uncomfortable situations, and conflict. That’s the reality, and denying our own needs is not a viable answer. Women can get very stuck when they try to avoid interpersonal discomfort, and respond to these dilemmas by consistently letting their own wishes and needs drop to the bottom of their priority list. The hard truth that some resist mightily, is that sometimes we have to say very difficult nos to others because we also need some yesses for ourselves.
You do have people who need you, and you’re one of them. You are one of those people who needs you. Self-care is not an either-or proposition even though your inner critic might tell you otherwise. Yes, you might have a little voice that tells you it’s “selfish” to focus on yourself or to take time for that yoga class, or to ask the family to change their eating habits to accommodate your needs. But it isn’t. It’s important (more about that later). This isn’t about not doing for others so that you can do for you, it’s about redividing the pie chart of your time and energy so that you get a piece too. It’s about including yourself and your needs and wants on the to-do list. In the end, everyone’s piece on the pie chart may be a bit smaller, but the quality of the time and energy you have to distribute is likely to be far better.
They DO need you to be there for them—especially during difficult times. And they appreciate you being in top form—ready and able to respond. Managing your own health and stress are essential so that you can be present when you most need and want to be. No one is very helpful when they are exhausted, burnt out and irritable. When we get what we need and when our spirit is well fed, we have more energy, are more focused, more creative, more confident, and more effective. We’re also more vibrant and we bring more of who we really are and our unique gifts to the table.
We lead by example. Here’s one that nurturers often forget. When we live a pattern of neglecting our own needs so that we can respond to others, we are modeling this to those who are watching. We learn some of our most powerful lessons by example and we teach them as well. Most women I speak with want their children and others that they care about to eventually be able to stand up for themselves, draw a clear boundary when necessary and to feel able to say no to certain requests. They want others to feel their best, to be healthy, to get regular exercise. eat well, and get the rest and care they need. If you are raising children than you are the one showing them how to do these things. You are modeling whether it is or isn’t acceptable to prioritize your own well-being and happiness. We have a choice. We can model martyrdom or we can model a way of caring and compassion that also reflects the value that we give to ourselves.
It isn’t easy. In fact, sometimes, claiming the time and energy we need to be our best is a daunting challenge. It’s not something we need to perfect, but it is something that we need to aim for–consistently. Having the goal in our sites, and feeling entitled to pursue it makes all the difference.