And, then something comes up that we’d like to do that costs a significant amount of money, requires a lot of time, or may involve travel away from our family. Our first response isn’t usually an automatic, “I’m in! Sign me up!” It’s hesitation… a pause… maybe even a complete stop and redirect to something more familiar and more comfortable.
I don’t have the time. The kids will need me. I’ve just spent $1000 on my dog’s surgery. We just spent thousands on doctors, sports, camps, counseling, and therapies of all sorts. Are you familiar with this dialogue that runs almost automatically through our heads?
What’s interesting to notice is that we didn’t stop to think for a minute where that money would come from or how we’d find the time for events and appointments for our loved ones. We knew we’d clear the calendar to be there for them – of course. It’s what we do. No question. No doubt. No other option.
Why is it we give so freely, quickly, and easily to everyone but ourselves?
Conditioning: We have been conditioned and taught for as long as we can remember that this is the way to be – when you are a kind, good, nice, and loving person, you are generous. You put others first. You do for others no matter what. It’s the right, honorable, and noble thing to do.
The problem is, we sometimes give and do beyond what’s sustainable. We may fail to even give ourselves the time and space to figure out what would fill us up emotionally, what would support us physically, what would nourish us mentally, and what would nurture us spiritually. We drain our tank and rather than refuel, we just put on our Super Woman cape, take flight, and keep on going.
In college, Betty was studying to be a teacher. One professor judged her to be a “shrinking violet,” something that was not desired in the profession. So, she quit college and became a secretary, taking very good care of her male bosses, no doubt.
She married and became the dutiful mother and housewife that she believed she should be, diligently studying and obeying The Good Wife’s Guide (we found this in her belongings after she died!). She cooked, cleaned, baked, hosted dinner parties, and took care of the kids. She ironed everything…including pillowcases and t-shirts!!
Her family’s joy was everything to her. She served her family and In many ways her husband was her master, dictating schedules, chores, etc… She lost touch with her own dreams and needs and withheld her anger, stuffing it in favor of the happy face she was supposed to plaster on. She didn’t complain and was perhaps the kindest, gentlest and most loving women I have ever known.
But she did not value herself. She did not believe in her capabilities or her intelligence.
And, though she should have been rewarded for this, instead she found herself alone to raise a pre-teen after her husband left her for another woman whom he found to be more adventurous and more intellectually stimulating. Despite doing “everything right” and sacrificing herself while giving 110% to her husband and five kids, it still wasn’t good enough. Thankfully, the divorce required her to find the courage to begin to listen to her dreams again, to put herself out there and travel and find a job that she loved and would happily work at into her 70’s!
Betty was my dear mama, and she is one of the main reasons I do the work I do today. I am determined to help women see their value, make themselves a priority, and claim their stake in this life – by choice, not by forced life circumstances.
And though these are different times, I see many Betty's still out there, I feel her shadow alive within me from time to time and I can hear her messages loud and clear– put others first; be nice; take good care of your husband so that he won’t leave you; and keep on doing more because it’s never good enough!
We carry our conditioning strongly within us, and we need support to break free and chart a new course. We need to know that it’s not selfish to take good care of ourselves, to make time for ourselves, and to honor our needs and desires. And, it doesn’t have to be done in a way that’s reactive, angry, or hurtful to anyone else. Done right, it benefits us as well as those we live with and interact with. We need to get to know ourselves well enough that we are able to honor and be our most authentic selves. It is possible! When we do that, the whole world benefits. This is a practice that asks us to revisit it every day, many times a day. Self-care is not self-indulgent… self-care is our lifeline. It’s what sustains us to be able to be kind, loving, and generous from a place of true well-being.
So, next time you find yourself hesitating about taking time, spending money, or making a commitment for yourself and you feel the automatic resistance kick in, I invite you to pause and give yourself permission to go for it.
It's OK to be happy. It's OK to have fun. It's possible to find peace
Being there for yourself...
When you notice you’re feeling drained, exhausted, or resentful, check in… have you been over-giving and over doing, thinking you have to always do more and be more? Then close your eyes, take a few breaths, and sincerely ask the wisest part of your being what you need in that moment. How depleted are you and what will it take to rejuvenate you? What would bring more joy into your life? What would cultivate more peace within? It’s ok to be happy. It’s ok to have fun. It’s possible to find peace. Let’s remember these things and take the oath my teacher, Renee Peterson Trudeau, taught me: “I will not abandon myself!”
How can you care for yourself today? Where will you NOT abandon yourself today?