Sounds logical, right? I mean, it all starts with you, doesn’t it, so you should be first in line when it comes to care, attention and needs being met. But for years (at least for me), this was the hardest thing to do. Instead, I put myself dead last and suffered the resentment, burn out and helplessness that came with the inevitable hitting of the wall at 100 miles an hour. Hmm. Maybe it’s time for a better way, yes? Here’s some of my best strategies for making yourself numero uno!
The doctor told me I had an upper respiratory tract infection. That I should get some rest, and take time to get better. If I would have had the strength, I would have laughed. Problem was, I was in Dubai at the time, with a full schedule of activities in front of me for the festival. Unfortunately, the flop sweat and weakness I had woken up to that morning finally had me on my heels. I hung my head as the maids came into the room (a lovely room, btw) to change the sheets down to the studs. I had managed to sweat through not just the top sheets, but at 104º degrees, I had gotten ALL the way down into the mattress covers. Nice.
Looking back, there really wasn’t a need to be surprised. My husband had been warning me for months as he observed my travel schedule and workaholic behavior as I tried to get a film project off the ground. I had been waking up at 3 am, not eating properly, not working out and basically being glued with anxiety to my laptop or phone for about 8 months. The beloved project had the money fall through just a month before and after that collapse, I got the e-mail confirming my trip to Dubai for the festival. I had almost forgotten I planned it, but at the time, it felt like it might be a good break, so I hopped on a plane and made it happen.
My body wasn’t quite so sure. That I managed to last as long as I did was truly remarkable, but like dominoes once they get started, all of the pieces had finally aligned for my physical breakdown. Sad part? I had been here before. Collapsed from exhaustion, anxiety, stress and the “need to get it all DONE.” This time, though, I could tell that something was different, and I wasn’t far off. On the way back home, I was in the American Airlines lounge and decided (yes, insert comments here) that I should plug in my phone and check my voice mail. On which was a not so comforting message from my doctor’s office. “Hey Kisha, you know that test we took before you left? Yeah, well the results are in and it doesn’t look good. I know you’re traveling but as soon as you get back home, can you call us so we can schedule you for a hospital procedure right away? Thanks.”
Ahem. I think this is the part where Oprah talks about that brick that hits your head, the one where if you DON’T listen, the house is about to crumble? Yeah, that one.
So, without really knowing how, but somehow knowing that it was all pretty do or die, I forced myself to slow down. This was neither pretty or noble, in fact without all of my work and busyness, I felt pretty crappy. Who was I without my tasks and errands?
It’s only now, really years later having done lots of intensive inner work that I can really appreciate moving slower and understanding that who I am and what I need is important.
I, like so many women had been conditioned that my needs were secondary at best and the very idea or concept of putting myself first was selfish and damn near immoral. All that I am and was to be was only acceptable or useful in relationship to others. This concept of course in the long run is dangerous in all life aspects – work and career, relationships, parenting, etc.
You are your most precious asset and while your conditioning might be that putting yourself first is just wrong, the sickness, anxiety, stress and RESENTMENT (oh, yes there’s plenty of that) that goes along with pleasing others and deferring your needs is just not worth it.
Here are some more compelling reasons to try out putting yourself first!
1. It will help you actually take better care of others.
Can you still give and serve others? Absolutely, even more so actually once you have met your own needs. Self-care is a sometimes abused term, but when you take the time to do those things that carve out time for YOU (working out, meditation, great food, time with friends), you are refreshed and more capable of focusing on others. Without this time and re-charge, you just become more frustrated and overwhelmed by the demands of others (bosses, family, spouses, etc.). When you’re not at your best, you can’t be your best. True selfishness is letting your ego tell you that you’re so vital to others that your needs are secondary. You’re not the only capable human being on the planet. No, they may not do it like you, but who cares? Let them get it done while you take a run or have a drink with your girlfriend to connect or take a nap!
2. You can’t hear your inner voice at 100MPH.
How had I allowed my health to deteriorate to such a point? Because I valued running fast over LISTENING to my body. I had tons of cues, still small whispers, but I ignored them all until the doctor called. Our running and hustling for the approval of others makes us less able to hear and trust our intuition and there is nothing more valuable than that still, small voice. I believe our spirits have deep knowledge of what’s happening in our bodies, but the signals are a bit different. In order to train ourselves to listen to them, we MUST be in a state where we can HEAR. Giving ourselves break time, or quiet meditation time to just SLOW DOWN is a part of taking care of ourselves. I get so much information now from slowing down and really observing and being present with what’s in front of me, that I now fight for and hold space for that moment every day. It was not always so, but when you do it with regularity, it starts to become its own delicious addiction.
3. You can’t please people and serve people at the same time.
If you’ve read my blog at all, you know I had a serious “people pleasing” addiction. I would transform myself inside and out if it meant I thought you would like me more. I lived and died for approval of others, which is in and of itself a thankless, yet full time job. And I was freaking brilliant at it.
The great thing about being a coach now, is that my entire job is to SERVE people, not please them. This means I must take a stand for what NEEDS TO BE SAID AND DONE, even if it means people don’t like me, or think I’m crazy (or both, which is sometimes the case). I have to hold this ground for dear life if I am to truly serve my clients powerfully. When you’re a champion for growth, which is often messy and painful, you can’t give a damn about how you look.
The same is true for real life, though. Many times, our efforts to “take care” of others involves co-signing their lack of resourcefulness and creativity. We can get so busy fixing everyone’s problems that we lose sight of the fact that we’re not really helping them, we’re just making ourselves feel better about how super-capable we are (as we gulp down resentment when they don’t appreciate what we do or ever seem to grow out of the need to lean on you).
4. You can help people just as much by saying NO.
The concept of letting others down or saying no used to be unfathomable for me. When what others need is more important than what you can actually handle, you find yourself saying yes to a lot of things that you’d rather not be doing — even that you know you SHOULD NOT be doing at all.
Though it’s taken lots of time to flex this muscle, I’ve developed a “hell yes!” or “no” attitude to life. If it’s not a HELL YES, then it’s a no. Everything else is just hell. Of course, sometimes in life there are things we must all suffer through (like Thanksgiving), but I’m talking about the ones you DON’T have to suffer. It only takes once or twice of dealing with the initial guilt, but then delighting in the fact that you don’t have to do that god awful thing you never wanted to in the first place to get over the hump. Then you’ll be a “no” pro in no time at all!
5. You, What You Need and Your Truth is Just as Important as Everything Else.
Your voice matters. Period. You have a say now. You have a voice now. Don’t fall into the victim mentality of wanting people to magically stop making demands on you because they see what it’s doing to you. They won’t. They will lean and lean and lean some more until YOU TRAIN THEM otherwise. It sucks, but it’s true. You’re an adult now and YOU GET TO HAVE A SAY. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been going on or how spoiled you’ve made everybody. Stand. You may want and need to cry sometimes. Stand. You may want to break and call and say, it’s OK, I’ll fix it. STAND. It’s hard to watch things fall apart when you know you can make it better, but your sanity, well being and overwhelm is too high a price. Boundaries serve you and everyone else. Stand.
In service of your visionary legacy,