8 November 2021
You can’t pour from an empty cup…
Put your own oxygen mask first before you do it for someone else…
I know - cliché, right?
Well, clichés are clichés for good reasons: they’re true and common. The problem with these isn’t the fact that everyone keeps saying them, it’s the fact that they have to because we don’t put them into action.
Back in my corporate years, work-life integration was a foreign concept for me. Prioritising my needs was the last thing on my mind and when I tried I felt guilty or selfish.
“How could you possibly focus on yourself when so many people and tasks need you? It’s selfish to do things for you instead of getting the “important” things done.”, my mind was telling me.
There’s a little secret that I’ve discovered rather late but I’m hoping you’ll let it sink in sooner than I did:
The fact that people and tasks need you is exactly the reason you absolutely should put yourself first.
You can probably relate to at least one of these:
Being busy meant I was productive, right? But at the same time, it meant that I saw rest as laziness, and it made me feel guilty, even though I knew I needed to slow down and take a minute to recharge.
In this case, the story you might be telling yourself is that putting yourself first feels unproductive and not a good use of time - or even just wrong! Which is why you don’t want to do it.
Do you feel guilty about putting yourself first? With that free time, you could be getting more done at work or just “be productive” in some way, right?
And if I’m being completely honest - as women, the situation is even more dire because we’re taught to take care of others. That often looks like not being able to: stand up for ourselves, say a firm “no”, recognise and respect our boundaries, and overall just have our own back throughout our lives.
This feeling of guilt is normal. But the good news is that it’s just part of the story we tell ourselves, which means you can also change it. The first step is to realise the fact that you’re not prioritising yourself and how that makes you feel.
If any of these sound painfully familiar, it’s time to make changes.
Does your weekly schedule light you up? Is it all about the work-life integration you’ve been longing for? Do you have time slots throughout your week all for yourself to get re-energised?
If this doesn’t sound close to what you’re experiencing, you’re probably on the other side of the coin: your diary makes you tired before the week even begins. You’ll barely have time for yourself because everything else feels “urgent” or “important”.
You have plans and goals for yourself, but you don’t take action towards them because you don’t give yourself the time and space to do it. Your diary is all over the place, and your attention is split into so many directions.
Here’s a little reminder: it’s YOUR responsibility to have your own back and take care of your wellbeing. And trust me, that’s great news.
“I should stop over-committing to avoid burnout.”
“I should set boundaries.”
“I should make more time for myself.”
This usually happens when you feel fed up with constantly doing things that don’t serve you. Unfortunately, from my talks with you and my clients, that’s just a fleeting moment - and then you just go back to putting yourself second - because it’s easier.
I won’t downplay the effort it takes to actually DO what you say you will. But it doesn’t have to be grand or overwhelming - start with small changes and it’ll become easier. My mission is to help my clients with exactly that: take action, one day at a time, towards your desired life.
You’ve probably fallen into the old trap: you think putting yourself first is neglecting other people’s needs and doing whatever you want all the time, with no regards to anyone else, ever.
And as a leader, you probably think that going at 100 mph and prioritising work will get you ahead. Well, unfortunately, it does the opposite. Similarly to “you can’t pour from an empty cup”, self-care is part of good leadership. A leader who takes care of herself is an empowered one - more confident, motivated, and ready to lead.
Clarity around putting yourself first ultimately looks like implementing work-life integration, combining your responsibilities for work and for others with the responsibilities you have to YOURSELF - self-care, reflection, mental and physical health etc.
All of these are intertwined. Let me stress this: you, making yourself a priority (taking care of your health, happiness, wellbeing), will enhance the success of your other priorities because you’ll show up more energised and loving.
The real reason you’re not doing more of what you love isn’t work, kids, or partners. It’s the fact that you’re putting all of those above yourself.
But all that time and energy will run out at some point, leaving you burned out, you know?
That’s why meeting your own needs will ultimately benefit everyone else around you too - your work and your loved ones. They (and you) will enjoy a strong, empowered, happy leader.
And you’ll be surprised how time “magically” frees up when you decide to do things for yourself.
Remember: creating happiness starts with making small changes every day. So, to help you do just that, I created a super quick, actionable mini-guide you can follow. Grab it here.
As a certified life coach, Jeni helps busy, successful women ditch overwhelm & selfdoubt & rediscover their energy, passion & freedom with proven strategies.