3 easy ways to stay true to YOU while you take care of others
Why am I so danged sensitive to other people’s emotions?
Why do we ladies seem to put everyone else’s needs before our own?
And how can we be caring contributors and still make our own needs a priority?
We women are afraid of hurting other people by taking care for ourselves first.
We think other people’s happiness depends on us.
And if we don’t take care of them perfectly, we will feel terrible, so it’s better to just keep focusing on them…
And this way of thinking totally backfires on us.
…we don’t want to rock the boat at the family dinner by asking for different food or bringing our own, and end up eating the gluten/corn/soy/sugar/dairy that makes us bloated, cranky, and foggy for the next three days.
…we sense a bit of disapproval so we don’t ask for time off or stay too late to finish a project that really won’t cure cancer.
…we don’t ask for help, like ever. And we end up stressed, exhausted, and eating our way through a bag of potato chips and a pint of ice cream at least once a week.
There’s some pretty good science to back up a very controversial idea: women’s brains are different. Our anterior cingulate cortex, the worrywart/emotional sensitivity/observer part of the brain, is actually larger, which helps us in some ways:
– we are more intuitive with our nonverbal babies to know what they need
– we sense what our friends and partners are feeling, sometimes before they do
– we can see a magical, rich quality to life with unique ways of looking at the world
So how can we balance our cravings for self-care + self-fulfillment with our innate sensitivity + desire to help others?
Here are 3 ways to start:
1. Ask yourself: Can someone else do this for me, even better than I can?
I was helping my son with his math this morning. In between washing up from breakfast and making his lunch, I’d dash back to the kitchen table to help him stay focused on the complicated word problems.
My partner Bob walked in, noticed I was stressed, and asked “Can I help with something?”
I almost said “Nope! I got this!”
And I realized, YES – he could TOTALLY help out!
I was stuck in a mindset that I had to do it all to be a good mom.
I asked him to help my son with his math, and got back to the cutting board. As I finished putting blueberries in the container, I heard the gentle, skilled voice of my partner lead our frustrated 8-year old through his task.
It was beautiful! They worked so well together, by the end they were both smiling.
Bob got up, told me that he had prayed to see his strengths during his morning meditation, and said he’d be happy to take over math help from now on.
When we allow others to help out and use their strengths, it helps them feel good and capable, while taking the pressure of us to do it all.
2. Tend + Befriend = A Secret Stress Squasher
If work and family stress are too high, and driving you to the drive-thru too often, take time out for someone else: a complete stranger.
A series of studies from Stanford Medical School show that we can relieve our own biological stress when we volunteer in a way that really lights up our passions: think animal shelter, nature conservancy, serving meals at a food pantry, etc.
Adults who contribute to charity are more resilient in the face of major life traumas, and people who feel time-starved (too much to do! so little time!) can actually relax that stress response by spending time on others.
Helping others, especially as a volunteer, creates the oxytocin and biochemistry of hope and courage, as well as physical resilience, that quiets our fears and despair.
This time “off” from normal duties can be a kind of mini-vacation: spending time doing something you love (I love weeding and gardening, so volunteering at the local park was a favorite volunteer gig for me), always reconnects you to your true passions.
3. Keep A Rock Star Diary
I have a rock star diary. I have to remind myself of my accomplishments so that when the “bitch brain” gremlins come out I have proof that I’m not a loser-imposter-fraud.
Positive Psychology shows that when we have pride in our accomplishments we feel more anchored to our self-worth.
A few ways to keep a Rock Star Diary:
– take pictures of your creations or positive reviews with your phone
– one night a week, write down 5 great things that happened this week and your part in helping those things happen. You know, take some credit! It’s more empowering.
– send an email to 5 favorite friends and ask them to write their 3 favorite things about you (take a picture of all of these with your phone, print them out and post them to your office wall, tattoo them to your arm, whatever it takes)
– keep a note in your phone of inspiring quotes or set a daily alarm at 3pm that flashes a quote as your appointment. Try these on for size:
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line.
You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”
– Lucille Ball
“Never bend your head. Always hold it high.
Look the world straight in the face.”
– Helen Keller
“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked.
Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
– Louise L. Hay
You want to feel like you can rely on yourself, make good choices, like you’re going to stick with your healthy intentions, and that you’re going to be supported and loved for your desires, not judged.
It’s ALL possible. Use just one of these easy ways to stay true to you and you’ll feel more aligned with your true self, while more capable of helping others, which is what we really love.
Now I want to hear from you – how do you stay true to your desires, cravings, and needs while still helping other people and being a rock star in the world?
Please share your comments and ideas below and let us know.
P.S. Next week I’ll be opening my exclusive Vitality Program for 20 women. This highly supportive, deep dive into your desires, challenges, and next steps will be open for applications on Monday. I’m SO excited to share it with you – keep an eye out! xo