I have a confession. Many of my clients come to me to find their voice, to claim their lives, and to step into their truth. I love to help them uncover and accept their true power. They grow into authentic individuals who take care of themselves while still being considerate of others. But recently the adage “do as I say, not as I do” was very true. Although I am clear about who I am and my right to have my needs met, I am also very empathetic. This empathy all too often leads me to give up my needs for the good of others. At times it is ok. I am very clearly gifting of myself for the needs of others. It is done consciously and cleanly. There is no regret, no resentment, or pain. But then there are the other times.
These times usually start when another’s pain seems so much more important, substantial, or excruciating than my needs so I feel compelled to give up parts of myself to serve them. It may start innocently enough. Perhaps there is the small sacrifice which was ok but not preferable. Then comes the next sacrifice and the next and the next and the next. I start looking for the end of this trial so I can reclaim myself, but the other’s pain keeps being slowly pushed further and further out into the future. The compulsion to serve becomes stronger than my conscious decision to give. Then one day I wake up and wonder where all of my self-care has gone. Dagnabit! Where was my coach to keep me back from this abyss?
As with all of the lessons I teach, asserting one’s right to self-care is not a onetime proclamation. It is a daily habit. Like exercise, focusing on our needs must be a consistent process to have full effect. If you exercise like an Olympic athlete one day but then spend the rest of your life on the couch I doubt your muscle tone will stick around. The same goes for maintaining your self-worth and providing your personal needs. Check in every day. Are your needs being met? Are others asking more of you than you have to give? Are you putting your needs on the backburner because you are elevating others’ needs above your own? Have you lost sight of your needs because of a crucial issue involving a loved one?
Parents and caregivers can often fall victim to the needs of others. Our love and sense of responsibility often supersede our own needs. Yet our noble sacrifice for others usually tends to backfire. Either we become so depleted that we can not serve those we love let alone ourselves or in our depletion we react with resentment and feel a need to attack others to get our needs met. Especially during a crisis, take extra time for yourself. Check in with your body, mind, and emotions. Are you as clean, clear, and focused as you were before the crisis? If not, you are not caring for your own needs. Take a break, ask for help, reduce your expectations of yourself, and find the balance between caring for others and your own self care. It is possible to help others without being depleted, but to do so it is necessary to focus on ourselves as much if not more than those in need. Take care of yourself first today and every day. Discover how self-care provides you with more energy to help those you love than if you resign yourself to a state of selflessness.