We live at a time when stress and frantic living is the experience of many people most of the time. From the moment we wake up, we feel that we are at the beck and call of others in some shape or form; either of the people we live with or online and by email.
We are somehow geared to respond to the needs of others in the way that a dog goes after a ball; if it is thrown we must catch it, we must respond, we must say “yes”.
If it is all give, give, give, we end up exhausted and stressed out, and that can eventually lead to burn out, where there is nothing left to give.
If it is all take, take, take, that can manifest as a lonely life experience, filled with strained relationships and a lack of self value.
Life is much more balanced and fulfilling when we give and receive.
The trap of saying yes because of perceived personal worth: "I am loved because I always say yes".
Many women fall into the trap of saying “yes” to every request for many reasons: an unwarranted sense of duty; perceived personal worth (I am loved because I always say yes; people can count on me); or the perceived expectations of others (that is what they want me to do, that is what they expect).
It’s not only women, of course; many men experience the burden of overwhelming responsibilities, a sense of being pulled in many directions.
For some the idea of self-care is selfish. We need to be able to say “no” to others, so that we can say “yes” to ourselves, because if you fill your days with other people’s needs, there is literally no time left for you.
There is a big difference between self-care and selfishness: self-care is for you to be your best self, so that you can give to others from a place of love and care; selfish is just for yourself – “What do I gain?”, “What do I get?”.
Self-care is for you to be your best self, so that you can give to others from a place of love and care.
We are all familiar with the safety procedure before a flight is about to take off; we are always told to first put on our own oxygen mask and then assist others. This is a useful approach to life. What would happen if you handed your mask to someone else, before using yours? Unless we have a good, consistent level of self-care as individuals, we will not be able to give care in a sustainable way to others.
Unless we can assist ourselves first, we may find ourselves giving from resentment and anger, and not because we actually want to give or assist others.
So how does one shift from always putting others first to always putting oneself first?
We are all different, and we all have different cultural expectations, family needs, and work responsibilities, but my clients who struggle with self-care find that asking themselves these three questions daily makes a difference.
1. How am I feeling today?
2. What do I need today?
3. Do I need help or support today?
It may take you a little while to being able to give to yourself straight away, or get to the point of asking others for what you need. But simply asking yourself these questions on a regular basis means you’re already tapping into your needs, and that is a great way to start the day.
Image by Erich Ferdinand (Flickr).