Every week I talk to people trying to get more balance, sleep better, feel calmer or more energised in their day, or who are on the verge of, or in burnout. They’re trying to back up the truck, slow things down a bit, feel more in control, do less, look after themselves, and just feel a little more human.
And it’s hard. It’s not an overnight process to go from GO to whoa. It wasn’t for me when I hit burnout and it rarely will be for anyone. Why is that? Why is it so hard to change these patterns and put yourself first?
There are a few reasons and one of them is that when you’ve been living in fifth gear for a while, like a car, you can’t just go from fifth to first in a heart beat. It takes some time to change down through the gears to a more manageable pace. But here is the BIG why: because no matter how many new strategies we might try and what we learn about de-stressing and so on, more than anything, we need to let go of the beliefs and perceptions that stop us from prioritising our Self. There are many of these and they are often cleverly disguised. For instance, believing that you must work hard in order to be loved/good enough/worthy has lots of disguises – it sounds like: “I love what I do, so I like to do it a lot!” or “Well if I don’t do it, no one else will” or “It’s only for a short time, it’ll quieten down again, I can handle it.”
The majority of our beliefs and perceptions are unconscious and a product of our upbringing and social conditioning – meaning we didn’t really choose to take them on, they were simply the things we learned when we were young, or what we decided we needed to be/do/believe in order to be accepted/ loved/safe. As an adult you get to discern what those beliefs and perceptions are, and which ones serve you well, and which ones you want to let go of now.
We have to start believing new things, things that might make you go ‘Hmmmmmm’.
Things like –
I don’t have to work hard to know my own worthiness.
I’m enough of a person, I am more than enough, whether I go to work today or not.
Looking after myself matters.
I don’t have to buy in to my parent’s beliefs around slogging your guts out.
I can work in a balanced way that means I am well, and I am doing well.
Now these beliefs don’t mean we then decide to stay home and have endless duvet days because well, “Hey, I’m great as I am, I don’t need to go to work!’ Generally speaking, you probably want to go to work (and if you really don’t want to please read this) and hopefully you get satisfaction from what you achieve. These new beliefs simply start to change how you work. They help you make healthier decisions about the number of hours you work, how many tasks you agree to or offer to take on, what resources or support you ask for, and when it’s time to put your foot down. They change how you support your friends, family and community – ideally and primarily by helping you check in with yourself first before you say Yes.
And here’s the rub. You know all that looking after others you do? The bringing home the bacon via a 60-hour week, the ferrying the kids to every after-school activity known to man, the caring for your elderly parent or aunt, the PTA, those three boards you are on, and the fifteen other things not listed here. On one hand, it’s awesome and loving and generous that you do these things. It’s also extremely unlikely any of this will be mentioned on your gravestone. And even if some of these things are mentioned in your obituary (“He was always helping others …”), I think you will be looking down from the afterlife that day and rolling your eyes at yourself as you see how exhausted and over-spent you were, how much you’d lost your sense of self and what you needed.
And from there, with great love and compassion, you will see that love is not just for other people. It is for you too.
And from that moment, you may just start to cherish your Self a little more.
But why wait for that holy moment of insight? Why not start now?
Putting yourself first doesn’t mean taking care of yourself instead of others. It means putting you on the list for a start, and at the top – not because that helps you bring a better version of yourself to others, which it invariably does – but because your right as a human being is to be healthy and happy. It’s your divine right and your natural state to thrive.
When you see a leaf or a petal unfurling, it’s not struggling and striving to open, it’s not trying to do three other things at once, it is simply allowing an unfolding.
It is flourishing.
You, you as you are in this very moment, doing this one thing, reading these words, are enough. As you are. Right now. As is.
And you are meant to flourish, dear one.
Much love, Karen