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A Strategy to Change What’s Not Working

Have you or someone you love experienced any of the following feelings:  I resent the fact that I do so much for others.  I give more than I get in most if not all of my relationships.  I never have time to relax or do something for myself.  I hate disappointing others so I drive myself to extremes.  I give a lot to others but still never feel needed, important or worthy.  Most days I wake up feeling like I am behind the eight ball.
Lately I have more clients saying these things than ever before. These are typically women who are successful in business, running busy households, raising families and volunteering in their communities.  From the outside, they appear to be at the top of their game.  You know the kind of women that other women often perceive as a threat.  These seemingly successful women come to me because they are physically exhausted, emotionally drained and spiritually spent.  Frankly, they’ve lost themselves.  They’re at the end of their ropes.
The very first thing I explain to these clients is that everything they’re describing is a symptom not a problem.  To which they usually say something like, “no, if I had more money or more help or more time then I wouldn’t feel this way.”  That’s not the truth.  The truth is that if you want to live a meaningful life which reflects your deepest purpose, values and needs, then you have to care for yourself as you care for others.  For women this can be the ultimate challenge.  We live in world where contribution is put aside for competition and popularity has replaced authenticity.  Women are taught that over-giving and self-sacrifice is who they are and how they must define their self-worth.
My job as a coach is to challenge my clients to hold the highest standard for their lives.  They should accept nothing less than great relationships, exuberant health, fulfilling careers and joyful lives.  I teach and coach my clients that a great life begins with purposeful, consistent care of one’s self.  How do we do that?  We start by raising our standards and telling ourselves the truth.  Are you in one-way relationships?  Do you commit to things to avoid feeling guilty, or do you commit to things to feel good about yourself at whatever cost?  These are some of the questions you have to begin to answer to start to change.
Some of these changes are external – for example, scheduling a little “me” time for yourself every day and scheduling something more extended and pleasurable one day a month.  Some of these changes are more internal – for example, giving up martyrdom and deciding to get your own needs met and learning to directly ask others for what you need.  Perhaps the greatest shift of all is in understanding that frustration, exhaustion and general discontent are not signs of failure but rather signposts for change.  These feelings are a call to rally, take action and not accept defeat.
I warn my clients that these changes aren’t easy, and they don’t happen overnight, but they are well worth the effort.   With patience and commitment, we can really look at our feelings and behaviors and remove the things that aren’t serving us.  Then we can replace them with empowering thoughts, feelings and actions that will serve us.  We learn to set firm limits on our availability and carefully choose who we invite into our life and what we will and will not tolerate.  We also learn to consciously and deliberately choose to care for ourselves and respect our ever-changing daily needs without fail.
Is this self-care selfish?  No, I don’t think so.  In fact, I think if everyone cared more for themself and took responsibility for meeting their own needs, we would all care more for one another and the world at large.  When you tell yourself the truth, act out of care and concern and not out of obligation and become more conscious of others, you become your highest self.  That serves the world.  The more you are, the more you give.  When you are fulfilled rather than needy, you will easily, gratefully and gladly give more to others.  And that is what we ALL need.

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