Over and over again I hear women say they don’t have enough time to plan healthy meals, have connected time with their partners, declutter their home, feel their feelings or exercise. It’s a tragedy. All of these well-meaning, intelligent and accomplished women give so much to everyone else but leave the scraps to themselves.
They forget that they can’t pour love from an empty pitcher.
The hardest part of this scenario is that giving to others at your expense can be externally rewarding. You are viewed as a giver and you really are – but inside, you are starving for your own attention. This is one of the main reasons we self-sabotage – because we are trying to get our own attention.
The most important person to take care of is you. Period. If you aren’t healthy you won’t be any good to anyone. Also, women who have children need to remember the best legacy they can give to their kids is an example of a life well-lived. Kids might listen to what you say, but they will do what you do. If you tell them to take care of themselves and you don’t do it yourself, what kind of message are you sending?
You must become number one. You do not ever have to sacrifice healthy eating, intimacy in your relationships, exercise, or your emotional health for the sake of anyone else…ever. If someone really needs you, they need you to be healthy and available. Put your own oxygen mask on first and then take care of the kids or anyone else who needs you. The ironic part of this process is that once you start taking care of yourself, you have so much more to give to others. Your attention to you doesn’t take away anything from anyone else – it actually adds value and joy to their lives.
When I work with clients who struggle to prioritize their needs, they have usually all heard this advice before and understand it intellectually. My job is to help them start applying it. Sometimes this requires that I be extreme with this advice and require my clients to at least try it out. In support of my clients making themselves their number one priority, I have said…”sometimes the kids will have to give up on some of their activities so that you can have one of your own. It will mean that your friends don’t always get the help they need and dinner is not quite ready at the exact time expected.”
My clients will often tell me there is a special circumstance which made it impossible for them to take care of themselves and when I inquire about the situation, it will be because of a party they were throwing or a meeting or a son’s soccer tournament. The truth is that there will always be these things vying for our attention because we live full and busy lives and those things are still always secondary to their emotional health and physical care. And I will tell them this…”if you can’t take care of yourself and throw a party, cancel the party. If you can’t work out and attend your son’s tournament, you don’t see your son play soccer.”
And almost 100% of the time, my clients will find a way to do both.
I know this approach can be very difficult for my clients to accept at first. Many women will feel terrible asking their families to wait for what they need while they get in their exercise. The worry that their families and friends will be shocked because they are used to her dropping everything so that they can be happy. My clients have conditioned everyone to believe that taking care of herself isn’t important or as important as everyone else.
I tell my clients that they should expect their families or friends to be a bit surprised when she introduces a new way of treating herself. I tell my clients that there will be a period of time where everyone is uncomfortable with a change in routine and behavior. Expect it. Know that it will be a natural reaction to the adjustment. And that feelings of discomfort are just vibrations in our bodies caused by the thoughts we think. It is always temporary. Consistent follow-through of the new plan will eventually shift the feelings that everyone is experiencing. A new pattern will be established and the old negative thought cycles will be replaced. The external reward of giving to others at your own expense will be replaced with the internal reward – for making yourself your number one priority, by giving yourself attention, by eliminating self-sabotaging patterns. The internal reward will come from helping and supporting those in your life from a place of pure joy, knowing that when you treat yourself with the respect and love that you deserve, everyone ultimately benefits.