It’s easy to get wrapped up in the world’s problems, to feel obligated to family, friends, your spouse, your children, your job, your place of worship, your volunteer work… everything… except for yourself.
It’s easy, especially if you’re a sensitive people pleaser to want to be everything to everyone- to be perfect, to get straight A’s and perfect scores, to win awards, to yearn for people to be proud of you, to love you, to think you’re amazing.
Eventually, though, it defeats you.
You begin feeling inadequate, ugly, broken, and like the biggest failure in existence. How are you supposed to do anything in such a state? How can you possibly succeed? The answer is, you can’t.
Earlier this week I went through a meltdown. Someone sent me an e-mail expressing some of their emotions and past life struggles (which I get, life can be incredibly painful) and in the midst of it expressed their extreme disatisfaction with the way I handled a particular situation 10 months ago. Keep in mind that right now I also have work 40 hours a week (with this being the busiest time of year), I’m working on graduate school applications, I’m studying for the GREs, I have a blog to maintain, and I’m taking an Arabic course after work two times a week. This e-mail was just the last drop to send my emotional bucket spilling over and sending the following thoughts through my head:
I hate my life. I hate myself. I’m a horrible person. I can’t do anything right. I hate everyone. I want to disappear. I want to die. I want to leave. I wish I stayed in the East. Maybe I should just pack up, hit the road, and see where I end up. Maybe I should cut off all communications from everyone. I feel stuck. I feel lost. I feel trapped. I can’t deal with this right now. I can’t deal with anything right now. Etc.
And, if you’re feeling this way, or have ever felt this way, you would know that you shouldn’t have to be in this place. You need to take your needs into consideration.
1. Make yourself your top priority.
My mom used to tell me all the time that “you can’t love anyone without loving yourself.” It’s true, you can’t. Likewise, you can’t truly care for anyone else until you care for yourself. Life coaches often use the analogy of oxygen masks on an airplane. The air attendents tell you that if those masks come down, you need to secure one over your own nose and mouth before helping anyone else with theirs. Why? Because if you pass out from oxygen depirvation, you’re not going to be able to help anyone else. It’s as simple as that.
If you neglect yourself and don’t make your overall health and well-being a priority you’re not going to be effective in being present for others. You’re not going to have the energy or the resources you need to thrive.
2. Acknowledge that you are amazing.
It’s part of life to face criticism. It may come to you in the form of people disagreeing with you, supervisors wanting you to change the way you do something, family and friends who don’t like what you’ve become or how you’ve handled a situation, or from your inner skeptic. It might happen face-to-face, in e-mails, in online comments, in phone conversations, or in backhanded ways. Criticism is everywhere, and yes, it can be painful and suck the life out of you.
The thing you need to remember though is that you are amazing.
When you feel inadequate, uncertain, or hurt, take some time to relax, breathe, and think of everything that makes you awesome. Write it down, draw it out, feel it. Better yet, right now, take out a pen and list all of the things that make you 110% you. The things that make you incredible. It can be character traits, ways you have handled particular situations, past accompishments, positive things that others have said about you. Think of everything you possibly can and write it all down. Place this list someplace safe and return to it whenever you need a boost in self-love.
3. Know your triggers.
Just as you have things that make you feel comforted and contribute to you thriving, you also have triggers. What are the things that you know set you off, make you feel unhappy and inadequate, or at a more intense level can send you plummeting into a wretched emotional abyss? Know what these are. When you do, you are able to avoid these triggers if you need to or deal with them head on when you’re in a space you feel comfortable doing so. Two of my triggers are the following:
- My parents’ divorce.
- My time of depression/OCD.
Honestly, these are my biggest triggers. They aren’t things that I like to talk about unless I’m the one to bring them up. Why? Because I know that I weave in and out of depression and these topics can make it a whole hell of a lot worse.
4. Know your needs.
What things do you need in life in order for you to thrive? To be happy? To be fulfilled? To be able to function at your highest capacity? Think with your brain and your heart on this one. Think about your mental health, your emotional health, your physical health.
My list starts something like this:
- warm baths
- lots of fruits and veggies
- a strong support system
- space and time to be alone
What does your list look like? How can you incorporate these things into your day-to-day? Regardless, you need to make sure that you’re getting what you need. Be aware of these needs and if you’re neglecting yourself by not paying attention to them, take a moment and incorporate one of them into your life immediately.
5. Practice constant self-care.
Even when you’re busy, make an effort to practice constant self-care. Even if it’s as simple as taking ten minutes every morning to drink a cup of tea and relax, make sure that self-care is something that you’re paying attention to. You are worth it. You are amazing. You deserve happiness and security. You are your biggest priority. When you acknowledge that and take time to make that statement true you are doing yourself (and the world) a great service. When you take time to take care of yourself, everything else become’s a little easier, you’re able to greet each day head on, and you have a greater ability to reach your highest potential.
How do you like to practice self-care?