Self-care is not selfish.
What do you believe you deserve? That's a pretty loaded question, isn't it? In more than twenty years working as a women's life coach, I've asked it thousands of times, and I've received countless answers. The majority of responses I've received have been disheartening, and they've revealed a startling truth. Women - even very successful, accomplished women - doubt their deservingness.
Deservingness is not to be confused with entitlement. Entitlement is about believing you have a right to something. Deservingness is about how much you believe you're worth.
When you doubt your deservingness, what you're really uncertain about is whether or not you measure up. Are you good enough? (YES.) You've made some pretty big mistakes. Do those bad blunders make you a bad person? (NO.) Are you a good enough person to deserve good things? (YES. YOU ARE.)
Many women carry around a secret shame that impacts their feelings of self-worth and deservingness.
Our stories are individual, but our core experiences are very much the same.
At some point in your life, someone told you there was something wrong with you. This is inevitable, of course, because there's something wrong with all of us, but it gets to dangerous and disempowering territory through repetition.
If even one person in your life tells you over and over again that there's something wrong with you, well, you can start to believe them. Being rejected or criticized hurts, and it has a cumulative effect. Imagine every criticism you've ever received is a tiny little pin that landed right in your heart. (Seriously bad visual, right? Wouldn't your heart look like a pincushion if that was the case?) Beyond hurting like hell, a heart full of pins holds you back and makes you play small. YOU ARE NOT SMALL. I want you to stop acting like you are.
In life, you always create the results you believe you deserve. If you don't believe you deserve good things, you won't let yourself have them.
You'll sabotage, procrastinate, and excuse the good right out of your life if you don't believe you deserve it. Happily, you can raise your sense of deservingness, and deepen your feelings of personal worth. I'm going to show you how today. It's time to start believing in you again.
Step 1 – Take good care of yourself.
On the face of it, you'd think this advice would be obvious and unimpeachable. Of course you have to take care of yourself. The problem with this truth is that there are whole communities of people who will try to convince you that prioritizing your needs makes you a selfish person. (And who wants to be seen as selfish?)
I've never encountered a woman who hadn't heard some version of this self-care-is-selfish-nonsense. The thing is, these messages are about control, and they come from people who are happy to keep you down and disempowered. (Which makes it easier for them to manipulate you.) Do not fall for this line of hooey.
Self-care is not selfish. Self-neglect is selfish.
Self-neglect tells you that you don't matter. It asks you to stuff your wants and repress your emotions. When you chronically neglect yourself, eventually, you turn into a repressed, angry, self-doubting zombie (or banshee depending on your anger level). Nothing about self-neglect is attractive. I want you to stop doing it. TODAY.
We need you in top form. There is purpose in your life. To make good on it, you need to connect with your SELF. The most fundamental way to begin that process is to take care of your physical body. When I'm working with a client, we practice four physical care basics. (I practice these guys too. Religiously.)
- SLEEP: You need seven to eight hours of sleep. Every night. No exceptions.
- HYDRATE: You need proper daily hydration. Water is energy.
- NOURISH: You need to eat food that nourishes. Not just food that fills your stomach.
- RELEASE YOUR STRESS: You need some way to unload your tension. Think working out, meditation, journaling, gardening, prayer, sitting in nature, cooking, or hot scented bathing. Let. It. Go. Girl. ☺
Notice I said, "you need." These are non-negotiable requirements. If you're tempted to argue against your ability to practice them, please pause. I've heard every excuse known to woman. And I don't buy a single one of them. We're in a no-excuses zone now. You don't get to argue against yourself and also be empowered. It doesn't work that way. You have to choose.
If you haven't taken care of yourself in a long time, this topic can feel totally overwhelming. I understand, and I want you to do it anyway. Remember, I'm your coach. A loving boot-in-the-butt will sometimes be required in our relationship. Consider this my velvet tipped toe, making contact with that booty of yours.
Take a deep breath and start tackling your care basics. You DO have time. You are NOT selfish, and there's no wrong way to do this except not to do it at all. Practice makes powerful. SO PRACTICE!
Okay, time to up the ante a little bit. This next step is harder.
Step 2 – Be someone you can count on.
You can't think your way into believing in your own worth, but you can act your way there. As it turns out, keeping the commitments you make to yourself increases your feelings of worth and deservingness, and strengthens your confidence too.
Think about it. You make countless commitments every day. The trouble bis that most of them are for other people. When you don't have a strong sense of your own worth, you agree to most incoming requests. Which means you're probably way overcommitted.
When your calendar is crowded, and something's got to give, you're the one who usually goes. Because it's easiest to break commitments to you, right?
Every time you break a commitment to yourself, what you're really doing is showing yourself, through your own inaction, that you don't matter. NO! Bailing on yourself is like giving your hopes and dreams a big middle finger. (Please stop doing it.)
It's time to start following through FOR YOU. Don't panic. I'm not suggesting you stop doing things for other people. As a woman, you're a natural-born nurturer. Of course, you're going to do it for other people. I just want you to add yourself to the list of people-you-do-for.
The best way to get a handle on showing up for yourself is to start paying attention to what's going on when you don't. What causes you to cross yourself off your own list? When you bring your triggers into your awareness, you'll notice a pattern, which will give you the power to make changes.
Take things one choice at a time. Whenever possible, choose to follow through for you. Every time you do, you remove one of those tiny little heart pins and strengthen your sense of worth and deservingness.
Now for the hardest part…
Step 3 – Stand up for yourself.
When you don't believe in your own deservingness, you become an earner. Meaning, you spend your time and energy earning love. This can show up in a lot of different ways. We'll talk about three of them here.
- You could be a PLEASER. You say yes when you mean no. You do a ton of favors. You're secretly annoyed the entire time you're doing them, but you keep doing them anyway.
- You might be a PERFORMER. You're the life of the party and an overachiever. You use material items and accolades like money, degrees, titles, and awards to prove your worth. (I used to be this girl.)
- It's possible you're a DOORMAT. This pattern is most damaging because it means you're allowing other people to treat you poorly. On the extreme end of the spectrum, this could look like allowing people to demean, degrade, or disrespect you. Even on the lesser end of things, it means you allow people to get away with passive-aggressive comments, or take advantage of you. On any end of the spectrum, doormat behavior is toxic.
It gets worse. When you live as an earner, you attract users. (That's just as bad as it sounds.) There are unfortunately people in the world that will live at your expense without giving it a second thought. If you're willing to give it, they'll take it, and even talk themselves into believing they deserve what they're taking. These kind of people like to keep you small, scared, and doubting your deservingness. (Then you do whatever they want. Whenever they want you to.)
YOU MUST STAND UP FOR YOURSELF.
Start by catching yourself in the act of playing the earner. What and who triggers the earner response in you? What are you afraid of? What are you trying to prove? If you feel drained or bad about yourself after you're with a specific person or in a certain place, you need to think twice about being with that person or in that place.
I know this is easier said than done. It's possible the people who make you feel bad are co-workers or family members. It's not like you can just stop seeing them, right? If you find yourself in this position, there is only one path. You need to speak up for yourself. Stat.
For help, you can check out three of my other blogs. They'll show you how to stop living like a pleaser, set some boundaries, and say no like you mean it. Will you be uncomfortable? Yep. You will. Can you handle it? Yes. You can. Be willing to be uncomfortable. Speak up. Stand up. Stop accepting less than you deserve.
Every time you speak up for yourself, you remove another pin from your heart, raise your sense of deservingness and you deepen your own sense of worth. You also show other women what it looks like to know your worth and live like you know it. Which encourages them to do it too. (THAT is female power.)
You are good, and you deserve good things. You deserve acceptance, belonging, and love. There's no mistake in you, my sister. YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. Just as you are.
My mission is your empowerment. That's why I'm here. If you haven't already joined my community, please do it by entering your email (www.kimberlyfulcher.com). Until we meet again, know that life is happening for you.
You've Got This!
KimOriginally published at www.kimberlyfulcher.com
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Following are excerpts from "Unleash the Girls, The Untold Story of the Invention of the Sports Bra and How It Changed the World (And Me)" By Lisa Z. Lindahl
There is an idea that has popped up everywhere from Chaos Theory to Science Fiction and New Age memes known popularly as the "Butterfly Effect." Simply put, it is the notion that one very small thing—the movement of a butterfly's wing say, or the ripple in a lake caused by a pebble being thrown into it—can cause tremendous effect far away: the butterfly's wing a tornado, the ripple a large wave on a distant shore. Cause and effect, does it have limits? The field of physics is telling us that it takes only observation to bring a thing into being. We cannot consider these areas of investigation and not acknowledge that everything—everything—is in relationship in some way or another with everything else.
So, it is evident to me that commerce of any kind is, also, just about relationships. It all boils down, on every level to this simplicity. While we usually think of relationships as occurring between people—it is far more than that.
I used to teach a course in entrepreneurship specifically for women in The Women's Small Business Program at Trinity College in Burlington, Vermont. I made this concept of relationship and its importance central in how I taught the marketing thought process. I would stress that for a product or service to be successful, it had to meet a perceived need. There is a need, and it wants to be met; or it may be thought of as a problem to be solved. Or there may be an existing solution that is less than adequate.
For example: In my universe as a runner there already were a plethora of bras available, but they were inadequate for my purpose. The relationship between my breasts, my running body, and my bra was creating discomfort and distraction. A new solution had to be found, the relationship occurring when all these things came together had to be fixed. Utilizing this point of view, one sees a set of issues that need to be addressed—they are in relationship with each other and their environment in a way that needs to be changed, adjusted.
Nowhere is this viewpoint truer than in business, as we enter into more and more relationships with people to address all the needs of the organization. Whether designing a product or a service or communicating with others about it—we are in relationship. And meanwhile, how about maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves? All the issues we know about stress in the workplace can boil down to an internal balancing act around our relationships: to the work itself, to those we work with, to home life, friends and lovers. So quickly those ripples can become waves.
Because Jogbra was growing so quickly, relationships were being discovered, created, ending, expanding and changing at a pace that makes my head spin to recall. And truly challenged my spirit. Not to mention how I handled dealing with my seizure disorder.
"My Lifelong Partner"
Let me tell you a bit about my old friend, Epilepsy. Having Epilepsy does not make any sort of money-making endeavor easy or reliable, yet it is my other "partner" in life. Husbands and business partners have come and gone, but Epilepsy has always been with me. It was my first experience of having a "shadow teacher."
While a child who isn't feeling she has power over her world may have a tantrum, as we grow older, most of us find other more subtle ways to express our powerfulness or powerlessness. We adapt, learn coping mechanisms, how to persuade, manipulate, or capitulate when necessary. These tools, these learned adaptations, give a sense of control. They make us feel more in charge of our destiny. As a result, our maturing self generally feels indestructible, immortal. Life is a long, golden road of futures for the young.
This was not the case for me. I learned very early on when I started having seizures that I was not fully in charge of the world, my world, specifically of my body. There are many different types of epileptic seizures. Often a person with the illness may have more than one type. That has been the case for me. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy—with a seizure type now referred to as "Absence seizures"—when I was four years old. I have seen neurologists and taken medications ever since. As often happens, the condition worsened when I entered puberty and I started having convulsions as well—what most people think of when they think of epileptic seizures. The clinical name is generalized "Tonic-clonic" seizures.
In such a seizure the entire brain is involved, rather like an electrical circuit that has gone out as a result of a power surge. I lose consciousness, my whole body becomes rigid, the muscles start jerking uncontrollably, and I fall. Tonic-clonic seizures, also known as "grand mal" seizures, may or may not be preceded by an aura, a type of perceptual disturbance, which for me can act as a warning of what is coming. The seizure usually only lasts for a few minutes, but I feel its draining effects for a day or two afterwards. Although I would prefer to sleep all day after such a physically and emotionally taxing event, I have often just gotten up off the floor and, within hours, gone back to work. It was necessary sometimes, though definitely not medically advised. I'm fond of saying that having a grand mal seizure is rather like being struck by a Mack truck and living to tell the tale.
Having Epilepsy has forced me to be dependent on others throughout my life. While we are all dependent upon others to some degree—independent, interdependent, dependent—in my case a deep level of dependency was decreed and ingrained very early on. This enforced dependency did not sit well with my native self. I bucked and rebelled. At the same time, a part of me also feared the next fall, the next post-convulsive fugue. And so I recognized, I acquiesced to the need to depend on others.
The silver lining of having Epilepsy is that it has introduced me to and taught me a bit about the nature of being powerless—and experiencing betrayal. I could not trust that my body would always operate as it should. Routinely, it suddenly quits. I experience this as betrayal by my brain and body. It results in my complete powerlessness throughout the convulsion. Not to mention an inconvenient interruption of any activities or plans I might have made.
Hence, I am the recipient of two important life lessons—and I was blessed to have this very specific and graphic experience at a young age. It made me observant and reflective, giving me the opportunity to consider what/where/who "I" was. I knew I was not "just" my body, or even my brain.
So, who or what did that leave? Who, what am I? Much has been written about trauma, and about near-death experiences, both of which seizures have been classified or described as. I won't delve into that here except to say that experiencing recurrent seizures and the attendant altered states of consciousness that sometimes accompany an episode (the euphemism for a seizure) changes one. It deeply affects you. It is both illuminating and frightening. It opens you up in some ways and can close you way down in others. For me it made it easy to consider the possibility of other ways to perceive, of other realms. And as an adult I became interested in quantum physics, where Science is pushing and challenging our long-held perceptual assumptions. Me, who was poor in math and disinterested in Science while in school! So if not merely body and brain, who am I? Spirit. And with Epilepsy's tutelage, I was encouraged to question, seek, try to understand what lies beyond.
Living with Epilepsy has also given me great strength. In realizing the futile nature of trying to have "power over" Epilepsy, I developed a deep well of "power within"—that inner strength that comes in the acceptance of that which one cannot change—and looking beyond it.
Through my experience building the business of Jogbra with the unique lens afforded me by my Epilepsy partner, I came to understand more fully the nature of power and what it means to be truly powerful.
Specifically, that having power and exercising it is not simply a manifestation of the ego. It need not be "power-tripping." It is how I wield my power that matters, making the all-important distinction between creating a situation of power over, power with, or empowering and having and creating strength in oneself and others.
Being powerful is a big responsibility.
To put all this another way: do I choose to create situations in which I am able to wield power over others? Or do I choose to empower others, sharing my strengths with them, while nurturing their strengths as well? The first is not true power. It is control. The second I believe to be the essence of true and positive power: strength. And integral to creating a more harmonious world, oh by the way.
While this may be apparent, even basic to others, it was an "aha!" moment for me. Too often in the years ahead I would give away my power and question my own strengths,. Time and again, however, my inner strength, my shadow teacher's gift, helped me survive and thrive until I could take responsibility for and embrace more fully my own power.
© Lisa Z. Lindahl 2019