A guest blog post by Katherine Golub from Core Brilliance Academy
“I’m so tired of trying to be everything to everyone. I feel completely drained, and what’s worse is that I’m not giving my best self to anything. I not taking good care of myself, and sometimes wonder what I’m doing with my life.”
These are the words a new coaching client said last week. Since a young age, she’s been a self-described over-achiever, a people pleaser with a very hard time saying no. A recent wake-up call told her that it was time to stop taking her one precious life for granted and to do this, she needed to learn a new way of working and living. In her words, she needed to learn to put herself first.
As a mother, business owner, and community organizer, I get it. For a long time, I was a self-proclaimed workaholic activist who worked constantly and never stopped to pay attention to my own needs. As a result, my physical and emotional health suffered. It took becoming a mother nine years ago to learn how to put myself first. To be the mother I wanted to be, I needed to start taking care of myself.
What exactly do I mean by putting yourself first?
When I say putting yourself first, I mean listening to your intuition and your heart. Paying attention to what you want. Trusting yourself. Making the contribution you’re truly called to make, not from a place of guilt or obligation, but from a desire to live fully.
Putting yourself first and putting others first exist at two ends of a spectrum. In fact, all action exists on a polarity or a spectrum between apparent opposites. Rest / Action. Giving / Receiving. Critical / Accepting. The list goes on. Neither end of a polarity is good or bad, and as a teacher of mine says, “The master is the wearer of a thousand masks.” Each mask represents a way of being. The important thing is not to get stuck behind any mask but rather to have the freedom to choose the action that most serves you and the people you care about in each moment.
If you’ve spent your life putting others first, you may need to learn to put yourself first to gain the ability to dance along the spectrum and choose the response that most serves you at any moment.
You can think of this as a yin-yang symbol. To truly serve others, you must take good care of yourself. And, often, an important part of taking care of yourself is giving back to your community.
So, when I say “putting yourself first,” I don’t mean only putting yourself first.
What I mean is developing the ability to take good care of yourself, be your authentic self, and share your gifts in a way that nourishes both you and the people you love.
So, how do you learn to put yourself first?
Step One: Honor Desire
The first step towards putting yourself first is to honor your desire. Our culture teaches that desire is dirty, selfish, and something that only privileged folks can afford. From a young age, especially as women, we’re taught to ignore and suppress what we want.
When I speak about desire, I’m not talking about cravings, addictions, attachments, or wishing someone else would change. I’m talking about your callings, aspirations, hopes, intentions, purpose, vision, and deepest commitments to yourself.
Your ability to know what you want is like a muscle. The more you practice, the stronger it gets. To strengthen your ability to identify what you want, for the next week, I invite you to ask yourself the question—What do I really want now?
Step Two: Follow Your Gut and Your Heart
A helpful way to identify what’s best for you is to pay attention to your gut and your heart. If you have an important decision to make, take a moment to place one hand on your belly and another on your heart. Then, ask yourself—What is my gut saying about this decision? And, what is my heart saying about this decision?
Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions or sensations come up. Notice if your brain is censoring the messages you receive, and be as truthful with yourself as possible. Putting yourself first often comes down to being honest about what your inner guidance is telling you.
Step Three: Detach who you are from what you do
One of the biggest challenges that people pleasers, workaholics, and over-achievers face is that they base their self-worth on the what they do rather than who they are. They don’t know that they are truly good enough, exactly as they are and exactly as they are not. Instead, they believe that they are only worthy of love and belonging if they give to others or perform to perfection.
Does this sound familiar?
It can take some time to learn to detach your sense of self-worth from what you do, but the first step is to be aware when you’re doing this.
Step Four: Choose a New Story
The next time your gut tells you to say no, but you’re afraid of what other people will think, notice the story you’re telling yourself. Is there a harsh inner Judge saying something like, “You don’t deserve to say no,” or “People won’t like you if you say no,” or maybe, “You’d be so selfish if you said no.” Perhaps you don’t even know who you would be if you said no.
You might think that if you listened to your inner Judge, it would make it stronger. But, in fact, the opposite is true. The more you bring awareness to the stories you tell yourself, the more they lose their charge.
Once you identify what you’re telling yourself, ask yourself what new belief or story would serve you more. Perhaps the new story sounds something like, “People will actually respect me more if I set healthy boundaries,” or “I will have more energy to make a real contribution if I’m not so tired all the time,” or simply, “I deserve to say no.”
Step Five: Take One Small Step Forward
Once you feel clear about what you want and have a bit of freedom from your old stories, the final step is taking action. Sometimes, over-achievers can get perfectionist about self-care. We can think that it’s all or nothing. If thinking about changing your life feels overwhelming, I invite you to ask yourself—What’s one small step you can take towards taking care of yourself now?
Do you need to take a five-minute break from the computer to stretch and drink some water? How about doing one sun salute when you get home from work? Or going to bed a half hour earlier tonight? Sometimes, you need to make a big change. Other times, it’s the little steps that make a real difference.
Putting yourself first is all about dancing along that polarity between taking care of yourself and showing up for your community. Exactly what it looks like to put yourself first will be different in every moment, but it all comes down to listening to and trusting yourself. Because, deep down, you do know what is best.
Sending you lots of love and en-courage-ment on your journey!
Katherine Golub helps people who want to make a big difference in the world and who are less than fulfilled in their current careers. Through professional coaching, she helps them develop the confidence, clarity, and focus they need to achieve their big dreams. Learn more about her work and apply for a free discovery session at CoreBrillianceAcademy.com.