Updated: Feb 1, 2022
This has been my story most of my life. My mother always said I did too much and it aggravated me because well, I did it all quite well. I did love learning and gaining new experiences, and was good at leading new projects and growing my practice and efforts. When things didn't go well it was usually because the system wasn't followed or because someone failed to do their job properly, or because we needed to restructure a bit and organize after some reassuring growth.
Feeling overworked, overburdened, and under pressure was my norm. I was efficient, productive, and successful at what I put my mind to and so all that reassurance made it hard for me to wrap my head around letting go of some of that responsibility. Afterall, I didn't identify as the weak link. Rather, I hired more prominent business leaders to coach me and help me identify better time management secrets or strategies for being more efficient. The reality is that we can't make sanity out of an insane situation.
Cheryl Richardson discusses in her book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care, if your life is chaotic, your schedule is overcrowded and your brain is too full to think, than the key to reclaiming your life has more to do with what you remove from your life than how you organize it. Most people probably have about 30 percent too much on their plates.
Becoming Very Discriminating
What are your absolutes? What are you most passionate about? What do you want in your life? Think about your top priorities - your emotional, physical, or spiritual needs. Think on your relationships, your acts of service, your work-related projects, and what brings you the greatest pleasures in life. What do you want to devote your time and attention to in this life?
Did you add self-care to that list? Do you recognize your needs are more important than those around you, even your spouse and children? You can not neglect yourself and continue to be gentle and kind, and avoid feeling bitterness and resentment over time. Unapologetically, you can invest in yourself as a step towards being your best self and as a result of that, offer your best self to others. Fill your cup and give from the overflow.
Avoid teaching your children that a mother is about self-sacrifice. When we neglect ourselves, we harbor these unexpressed feelings and this seeps into our childrearing. We teach our children to do the same, that they aren't worthy of prioritizing themselves. We then believe that our #happiness is dependent upon another person as we haven't the time to invest in this for ourselves.
Model self-care and stop the legacy of deprivation. The greatest gift you may give your child is the teaching that we are our own top priority. This isn't mutually exclusive from service or kindness, even compassion. Loving ourselves increases our empathy and ultimately, our compassion. We need to put the idea that self-care is a luxury or that it is selfish, behind us.
When we fill our cup or our schedule, we should do so with only those things which are absolute yeses. When receiving an invitation do you consider all the things you may have to make work to accept the invite? Do you hope things fall into place to you can work this next opportunity into the mix? Do you often reassure yourself or others that somehow we just have to make this work because this is just one more thing that must be squeezed in because you can't see how to get out of it? Do you commit to projects because they are too good of an opportunity to miss but are largely stepping out in blind faith?
What I love in life is time outside in #nature. I love investing in my own health, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, so if I was going to have all of these in my life, I had to make this my life work. My practice then prioritizes these things in our event #schedule. I hike and for some of those hikes, I invite my clients. I read at least one book a month and that book I open for discussion with my clients. I love yoga and find it an integral aspect of maintaining my overall wellness, so my primary care practice has a #yoga studio. I teach four to six classes a week. What I want in my life, I schedule into my life.
A test for identifying when opportunities are meant for you is when you can give an absolute yes. Can you discern those times when you feel an overwhelming desire and without hesitation want to be involved? Those are your absolute yes moments. Anything short of this, is a no.
Mark Manson says in his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a #@96!, "No matter where you go, there's a five-hundred pound load of shit waiting for you. And that's perfectly fine. The point isn't to get away from the shit. The point is to find the shit you enjoy dealing with."
For years as a #midwife, I was on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Clients would call for emergencies and for birth so when these calls arrived, it was an automatic fight-or-flight response. I had to work fast to arrange my family, prepare myself, and get out the door often while simultaneously coordinating staff and talking the laboring mother through a most difficult time (while, of course, looking up GPS directions and packing my car).
Multiple times a week this occurred for more than a decade, but beyond that, clients having access to me at all times and because often what they felt was an emergency and what I felt was an emergency were two very different things, I would often get calls from clients who were at the grocery store buying their prenatals and they were hoping to run down the ingredient list with me before purchasing; nevermind the fact that I was at my daughter's piano recital.
Other times I would get a call from a client who was dealing with personal traumas, such as having just been rejected by their partner, and in the moment, they couldn't discern whether this was a personal matter or a medical issue or if they were seeking professional advice or just needed a friend. My life was always at the beck-and-call of others and my body, trained to meet the needs of others, meant I was far too often going above and beyond the call of duty, martyring myself. Today, talking on the phone is on my absolute no-list.
Many primary care doctors offer concierge services and provide their private cell phones for 24 hour access, this is not an expectation I am willing to offer. In fact, I don't use the voice phone at all. The mere thought of this causes me to freeze up. Rather, we utilize a phone service that dictates messages and we get these sent to us immediately so if we are in a position to respond, we can. Otherwise, we can wait until the next business day. Many times this does mean we are responding after hours, because we enjoy our clients and truly, only accept those that bring us joy. That fight-or-flight response is no longer triggered for me and without exaggeration, this boundary alone has relieved an immense amount of stress from my life and at least ten pounds from my waist line. I am protecting my energy and my nervous system without apology.
What might you need to do to protect your energy and honor your values? Personally, thinking about what to eat for every single meal for the rest of your life is the most difficult part of being an adult, so we have Hello Fresh delivered weekly. We've even taught our teenagers to cook with these meals so even though both Jeremy and I very much enjoy cooking, on occasion they can take over this responsibility which is also beneficial to them as well.
I use to freely share so many of my ideas, my experiences and tips, but today, I can do this via consultation for a small fee or only with colleagues who have similar to offer myself. My time is important to me, but also is the reality that I spent many, many hours away from my children to gain this knowledge and so today, I recognize my worth. Add to my cup in some way before asking me to pour from mine.
Simple things too. I no longer jump and run out of bed in the morning. If I haven't time to make my bed, I cut something out of my schedule. I don't schedule anything before 9am, but admittedly, 10am is my preference. I need two days a week at home, alone. Many times I am working these days, but I dictate that schedule and what I will accomplish. I don't rush.
I have chosen for this season of my life, to live without pets. My partner did come with one so I did have to make adjustments, but I drew boundaries. I am not compromising my needs to make peace with anyone. I have someone else pay my bills or have them all set up as automatic payments. I don't have credit cards. I don't wash the toilets or mop the kitchen floor. I don't do the floors in my clinic. I will never again try to wear contact lens.
I don't seek validation or even understanding. Those who want to understand me will put forth the effort. Those who don't, I walk away from. My space is my sanctuary. I don't hold onto friends who aren't leveling up with me. I have told a few people to fuck off more recently without apology or regret. This wasn't out of anger; in fact, I am not even sure the last time I was boiling mad. Rather, this was my crossbuck. No further explanation. I accept no further verbal abuse.
I no longer collect data to articulate my argument. This is part of wanting to understand me. Either we work to come to a resolution, or you are working only to defend yourself. My feelings matter. If they don't to you, no amount of evidence will persuade you otherwise. Walk away from these people.
I don't go to work when I am sick. I don't attend events out of obligation. I don't maintain family relationships because of blood or friendships because of history. I don't check my email daily. I don't even have my email notifications turned on, nor my ringer. Simpler even, I don't keep clothes that I might fit into some day or finish a book that has already lost my interest. I hike alone, dance alone, go to a fancy restaurant, and often go to the movies alone.
Raising our Standards for Ourselves
One small "no" can open your mind to many new opportunities. Trading services with another can help you overcome financial restraints. The gal who cleans my office exchanges services with me. Sometimes we just need to raise our standards for ourselves. This isn't a matter of entitlement; it's about honoring your needs and recognizing your worth.
It is true though that when you start to put yourself first, a significant number of people within your circle will push back. They have profited from your willingness to let them take advantage of you. It will become, sometimes painfully so, obvious who truly values you and this is a necessary realization even when truly uncomfortable and disheartening.
This journey is very enlightening. Maybe you can't think of a single absolute no. Maybe you can't identify a single need. This was me early on as I felt the best me was someone who sacrificed and was always willing to step out in faith for the better good. I was the stronger one, always able to go the extra mile.
Pay attention to your habits, where you become bitter, when maybe your anger shows up to protect you. When do you feel most drained or resentful? You don't have to be someone else's brain. Carrying the mental load in work projects, home maintenance, or even parenting is 80 percent of the work. Maybe you no longer volunteer for companies that haven't sufficient plans of action?
When do you feel stress in your shoulders? What tasks or events are those that cause you a bit of distress? Let those go. Hire someone to maintain your books and file taxes. It's worth it! Trust me.
Free to be Your Best Self
When we identify our needs and can communicate those without apology or excuse, we feel safe, protected, taken care of and free to be our best self. Guess what!?! This is something we can do for ourselves. No need to wait for your boss or your spouse to make this happen. We take these steps ourselves as a non-negotiable.