"It's easier to focus on what other people need."
For all y'all who spend most of your time and energy taking care of whatever everyone else needs—at home or at work. Putting your needs last may be seriously in the way of you reaching your goals.
But it seems so overwhelming and hard, even thinking about it. Where is there time or space for your needs? Especially when you have kids, right? Clever Brain loves to convince us that our needs aren't as important. That we can suck it up and make it work. This works until it doesn't. Until our bodies force us to take care of ourselves. Let me offer you a new way of looking at this and some ideas on how to start getting what you need so you can get where you want to go. #progresscoaching
Ready to learn how to put yourself first?
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My, Dears! Why am I wearing this incredibly unflattering brace around my neck? Because I wanted to have a visual today that really drives home the point of this chat. It is that: Your needs are really important for you to make progress.
Often these are things that get kind of deemed something that we can disregard or power through. I am wearing this neck brace, not because I actually need it in this moment, but because it is symbolic of what happens to me when I do not take care of myself and when I disregard my own self-care in pursuit of a particular goal.
So while I didn’t have this particular neck brace when I launched Map Your Progress, the weekend that I had initially posted my first blog about how I paid off $26,000 of credit card debt (using the Progress Maps), I remember that I was supposed to go with friends to the Color Run, which is this really cool event. I was very excited about it.
I ended up not being able to go and I stayed home. I actually rigged kind of a “DIY” version of a neck brace and I laid in bed and I watched Hulu because I couldn’t do anything else. I lost the ability to hold up my own head—even just perform basic functions like feeding myself or using the bathroom—because I had not taken care of myself.
I’d put all of my energy into that blog post, getting things up, I had all these sales coming in. It was amazing proof of concept and I felt, in some ways, so accomplished and proud. I was making such progress! And yet I couldn’t even go hang out with my friends. Because I couldn’t move my freaking neck!
So: Oh, hey, Vicki! She’s saying, “Hi Amy!!! Finally made it live!!!” Good to see you, Dear.
So this contraption that I’m wearing, is one that I purchased recently when I caught myself doing this again. When I had been so focused on the goals that I had, the steps that I was taking, that I essentially sacrificed my own self-care. So when I do that, my neck is the first thing to go.
Some of you may be familiar with Louise Hay’s work. She wrote a book called You Can Heal Your Life. It’s fascinating because she sort of talks about the intuitive aspects of injuries and their symbolism, and what might be going on in terms of our subconscious—things that may not seem quite obviously related to the injuries.
So in preparation for this chat, I was actually just looking up what it means when you injure your neck, accordingly to Louise Hay. And she says:
The neck represents the ability to be flexible in our thinking, see the other side of the question, see another person’s viewpoint. When there are problems with the neck, it usually means we’re being stubborn about our own concept of a situation.
When I see a person wearing one of those ‘collars’ I know that person’s being very self-righteous and stubborn about not seeing the other side of an issue.
I’m like, “oh, that’s funny! hahaha!” Because whether or not you agree with Louise Hay and her methodology, I do think it is good food for thought to consider how our body responds when we don’t take care of it. And how that gets in the way of progress.
So, for me, with my neck: When I am being hell-bent and focused on what it is that I’m wanting to do and I’m not taking care of myself and I’m viewing my needs as being something annoying or irrelevant or just in the way, my body responds back. And is like, “Oh, yeah, Sweetheart? Guess what. BOOM! There’s your neck pain. We’re going to take that away from you. Because you are not taking care of yourself.”
This is something that I hear a lot from the clients I work with. Particularly women, this seems to be super prevalent. Especially women who are those that really take care of others, tend to be a bit overly responsible, and are constantly putting the needs of others before themselves. Often it’s family members, particularly children, but it can also happen in the workplace and so forth.
So today I wanted to kind of dig into that a little bit further and look at how the way you’re relating to your needs may be in the way of you getting what it is that you really want and achieving your goals in a way that’s sustainable and does not require a neck brace, right?
OK! So, of course—Clever Brain…Oh! Tazz says, “Hey Amy. Made it love. What have you done to yourself?”
Dear, I’m actually totally fine right now. I’m just wearing this neck brace symbolically because I want to talk today about what happens when we don’t take care of ourselves and how it gets in the way of progress.
Vicki is saying: “Excellent topic.” Thank you, Dear. I appreciate that so much!
Ok, so Clever Brain and our needs! LORD. Clever Brain can do quite a bit of runaround when it comes to our needs. When I’m talking about our needs, I’m talking about certainly starting with the basics, like our need for food and for enough sleep and for movement. For not pushing ourselves to the point of exhaustion or injury. It’s essentially whatever it is that we need on a day-to-day basis to feel well. To feel like we’re operating in a way that is sustainable.
I don’t know about y’all, but I’m assuming there are many of you out there that are like me, where in particular, there’s been periods of time in my life or jobs that I’ve had or certain seasons of life where I’ve really been out of balance. So focused on achieving a particular result or completing a certain project—any number of things—where I got out of balance and was not taking care of myself.
Like I’ve been eluding to, the reason that I’m symbolically wearing this neck brace is that, for me, it shows up in my body in my neck. This even happened a few weeks ago, which is why I purchased this sweet little lover on Amazon. If you have neck issues, I highly recommend it. Because I was saying to my friend, “I just want somebody to hold my head up for me! My head has become too heavy and my neck can’t deal.”
So you may have issues with your neck or you may have your own version. I was talking to a good friend of mine this past weekend and she was down for the count with a migraines.
When we don’t prioritize our needs, and when we make other people’s needs more important and are used to sort of “sucking it up”—Clever Brain loves that sort of logic—like, “we don’t have time for you. We don’t have time for you to get something to eat. Or to go pee. Or to sleep in. Or any of the other things you might need because there are other things that need to get handled first.” When we get into that mode, and we do that for long enough, our body can’t help but intervene.
And so with my dear friend, she was laying in bed with these terrible migraines. That was the only thing that was going to slow her down, right? How many times have we been in similar positions? I can’t even count the number of times I’ve done that myself, where I was not listening to my body and I was not making space for what I needed. So my body took over and did it for me.
So what we want to do is avoid that to the best of our ability. We are a human people, so we’re not going to have a perfect track record with this. That’s not the point. We’re not seeking perfection. We’re seeking to listen to ourselves, to our body, and understand how that impacts our ability to make consistent enough progress, in a way that is sustainable.
So like I was saying, Clever Brain can get in there and convince us that other people’s needs are more important, that we just need to suck it up. My Clever Brain loves, “Ok, Sweetheart: Just for a little bit longer. We just need to get to here. We just need to get to next week. We just need to get to the end of this project.” To the end of the school year. To whatever those things are—these kind of benchmarks that we bargain with ourselves—in terms of when it’s going to be OK for us to take exquisite care of ourselves.
Like I said, when we don’t, our body will take over.
I can think of a time, back in 2007, where I was working as a wedding coordinator, it was the hardest job I ever had, working six days a week, doing WAY, way too much. Totally out of balance.
And I can remember my family coming to me and expressing concern and me snapping back at them, “no, I just need to get to next week! I just need to make it through this next event! Then I’m going to be fine! Then I’ll take some time.” But I was *really* at my wit’s end.
What happened is I didn’t make it through the week. I ended up having a full-scale mental/emotional breakdown. Like, put myself in the hospital, no-go. Because I had refused to listen to my body. I had refused to listen to or honor my own needs. And that is a very extreme example and I certainly do not wish you to ever, EVER get to that point. But, when it comes to the milder examples: Like the neck going out, like the migraines, like maybe it’s getting sick. But your body is going to respond in kind.
It may not seem like a perfect solution, but oftentimes we don’t take care of ourselves until we have a reason that is so obvious and so hard to get around, that it’s like, “well, I wish I could, but I can’t even open my eyes right now because I have such a bad migraine.” So we don’t tend to give ourselves permission to take care of ourselves, until it’s the point where we’ve kind of painted ourselves out of options. This making sense?
Ok! So, in addition to focusing on what other people need, which is a real common Clever Brain one, where we don’t have time to focus on what we need because we gotta focus on the people that we’re caring for or we just gotta suck it up.
We can also have a relationship to what we need as being kind of annoying. Like, I’ll have that one where I’m so engrossed in what I’m doing, so excited about that projects that I’m creating for y’all, that when I notice that I’m hungry, it feels annoying. Like *how dare* my body require food. I’m BUSY!
So I have to catch myself from going downstairs and attempting to eat while standing up or just grabbing some cashews out of the cupboard and calling it a day. Drinking too many protein drinks, thinking that lunch in a bottle will do. I really have to catch myself and go, “No, Sweetheart, we’re gonna make a sandwich. We’re gonna make a salad. We’re gonna do real food on a real plate. We’re gonna sit at this real table and eat.” Which only takes 5-10 minutes.
But your Clever Brain can take something as reasonable as having a decent meal and turn it into something that you don’t have time for. Or that you can keep drinking your meals out of boxes and that’s totally fine, like that’s going to work. No. It’s not a sustainable thing, right?
So watch for that. Watch for Clever Brain making your needs annoying or irritating—like it’s asking too much.
And then, there’s another big one. Clever Brain looooves this one: To make it seem noble that you are not taking care of yourself. That you are so committed to everyone else or to your people, your kids, your co-workers that you don’t take care of yourself. You’ll hear people say things like, “Oh, she always put other people first. She always her needs behind those of others.”
And we’ve had this sort of generational legacy of that being a really good thing and that that level of perceived selflessness is somehow honorable or noble or to be aspired to. Unfortunately, it’s just—it’s a myth. It’s one where Clever Brain keeps us disempowered and keeps us distracted from going after the things that we really want to go after. Or really performing at our highest potential, because we have created this logic—or excuse me, Clever Brain’s really created to logic that we’ve bought into—that it’s somehow better for us to be in a state where we’re really not running at our best and we’re always a few steps behind, because we’re just putting the needs of everyone else first.
So I want you to really look at that for yourself. If that’s something that you experience or has become a way of life for you, I really want you to consider the impact that that is having on YOU. I really, really get that so many of us want to be great for others and I want to be great for you. I deal with this all the time. Where I have so much that I want to give you, I have so many things that I want to create for you, and yet: I also have to catch myself and go, “Sweetheart, have you taken care of yourself? Do you have enough sleep? What’s going on in your nervous system? Are you running on stress right now or are you running on enthusiasm? Or is it something else that’s not really sustainable?”
Clever Brain can make it seem like your needs are negotiable and that somehow that you always have to show up for other people and take care of what they need, but then not so much for yourself. It’s CLEVER. It is not sustainable. And if you do not honor yourself, your body is going to intervene and create some kind of sickness, illness, accident—where you might be clumsy and hurt yourself—because you are not taking care of yourself in a sustainable way. Ultimately, that is not in service of your goals. It is not in service of you having a sustainable momentum where you are growing and getting where it is that you want to go.
So, what I want to offer are just a few things that you can experiment with or keep in mind, especially if this is resonating with you and you’re like, “oh, shit—this is totally me.”
Yes. Oh! Vicki’s saying, “Bingo. There must be a balance.” Yes. And that is a balance that we have to pay attention to on a day-to-day basis, hour by hour. Really checking in with ourselves. Because we can get in these—again, it’s that stress response, when we get overwhelmed, where there’s too much going on or it’s too fast—this can be daily life. I’m not talking about extreme things.
I’m talking about just going about and getting your job done and having a family or trying to just do the basics. When we are not taking care of ourselves, all of that can feel very overwhelming.
First thing I want you to consider experimenting with is a different idea. Not looking at Clever Brain’s logic, but considering, from a place of love, that it is actually one of the most generous things that you can do for the people that you love, who love you—for you to take exquisite care of yourself.
Each time that you stop to honor yourself, you are taking care of someone that they really love. So each time that you stop to eat something that is good for you, to take a breath, to take a nap, to meditate, to just sit down and watch some TV or flip through a magazine, to get on the phone with a good girlfriend.
Any time you are doing any of those things to take care of yourself, you are caring for a really, really important person that they really love. Which is, of course, YOU.
And when you take care of yourself, it puts you in a position to be able to take excellent care of them. To be able to *be* who it is that you want to be for them. ‘Cause this gets to be a stumbling block for a lot of folks, especially women, when it comes to our goals and feeling like we’re willing to give ourselves the time or energy to pursue those. Because we don’t want to take away from other people.
We don’t want to sacrifice the love and care that we’re giving those in our family—children especially. So that’s where Clever Brain will use that to keep us in that state of being disempowered and running behind and playing catch up.
So consider flipping that and looking at you taking great care of yourself as being a very generous thing that you are doing for the people that you love.
And then: I want you to notice how people start to respond to you. The more that you take care of yourself, the more people are likely to start to respect and care for you. This can be a little bit of a transition period, especially with the people that are closest to us, when they are used to you really always extending yourself and always doing more than your share.
I will not lie to you and say it can always be a smooth transition of roses and rainbows! Yet. It is a really critical and important one. Because when you really start to take ownership of it and it becomes a non-negotiable, then people start to respond in kind.
There’s a simple example that I want to share. This is one that I know I had for myself and a client of mine had actually just brought it up again the other day. You know when you will get requests from people saying, “oh, could you meet up at this time?” or particularly in business, you’ll get a calendar request for a particular meeting.
I remember that I used to be in the habit of, when those requests would come in for somebody wanting my time, particularly if there were multiple people involved in a particular meeting or meet-up, whatever.
I would turn myself inside-out to be able to accommodate other people’s schedules. Whenever they came in and said, “I want to meet with you at this time” then I would just say, “OK…” and I would move things around on my schedule if need be. I would be rushed. I would be trying to pack too much in. Because my Clever Brain was saying, “well, they set up what the time is. And you just have to show up. And you better be there. Or else they’re going to think they can’t rely on you or that you’re not good at your job.” Or all of this other bullshit.
I remember it was like a fricking revelation the day when I had gotten one of those meeting requests with a bunch of other people, asking if that time worked. I actually don’t even think they asked! I think they just sent it out because they were so used to me always making it happen. I just responded back and said, “I’m sorry I’m not available at that time, but this time would work for me as well as this one. Which would you prefer?” And that was like a huuugggge deal for me! To say, “no, I’m not going to sacrifice my own needs and my own balance and well-being to accommodate this particular meeting.”
So when I started to switch that around, and started to block times in my calendar where I wanted to be able to take a break or I wanted to be able to show up at a particular event. Or go to lunch with a friend. I started putting that stuff in my calendar and claiming those things as being worthy of protecting. Not just saying yes automatically or trying to accommodate other people’s needs and place their schedule preferences above my own.
So look at your calendar. Look at how you respond to people’s requests for your time and how willing you are to sacrifice what it is that you need and your own balance, just to try to meet somebody else’s request. Really, really common one.
And then: The other thing, is when you’re starting to shift this and practice taking care of yourself more—as I was mentioning— sometimes people can respond to that with a little bit of friction, where it’s like, “hold on a second. What’s changed? Why do you normally do this, but now you’re not doing this, so what’s going on?” So you could say something to the people that you love, like, “hey, I’m practicing taking better care of myself, so I can take better care of you. And so, I’m going to do this. I know that I normally do this, but since I’m practicing something new, I’m gonna say no.” or “I am not available because I’m committed to taking care of myself already.”
Just that. You don’t have to explain it. You don’t have to debate it. You don’t have to get into it with anyone. Just letting them know, “hey, I am doing something new and I’m practicing this.” Because it IS a practice. It is not something you just flip a switch and it’s like good and done. This is something that evolves, that you will learn and get better at, that you will stumble through. Some days you won’t have it. Some days, I end up needing this freaking neck brace!
But you’ve gotta forgive yourself and be gentle with yourself and compassionate. That it’s OK for you to be imperfect. And it’s so worth you practicing anyhow and building your own self-care muscles, so that you can take exquisite care of yourself. Because when you do, everybody wins. And when you do, you’re able to create a sustainable momentum. You are able to get to your goals because you are the source of your goals.
And my Loves, if you don’t take care of yourself—it does not go well, OK?
The last thing I want to say about this: ooh, Meg! You’re saying, “Amen. I schedule sleep. I volunteer with college students.” Oh! Wonderful. Very cool!
So one of the things I want you to consider. Because I’m very much about progress coming from love, instead of fear. Some of you may be familiar with Gary Chapman’s (book), The Five Love Languages. I am a big fan of the Five Love Languages (website). It’s this idea that we experience love in different ways. We express it, we receive it, in different languages, according to Dr. Chapman.
Those languages include spending quality time together, receiving or giving acts of service, where we take care of one another. It could be as simple as, “hey let me do the dishes or let me pick up the dry cleaning or here, let me make you a meal, I know you’re busy.” Those are acts of service-type things.
The other language are words of affirmation, physical touch, and receiving gifts.
So I want to hone in on the acts of service. Because this I think is particularly relevant to how we care for ourselves, when we are in the habit of over-giving to others at a cost to ourselves. Which as I mentioned, is *not* sustainable. It is not conducive to you making progress.
So when you consider acts of service as a form of love languages and as a way that you may be expressing love to other people, when you pull back a little bit and when you are taking care of yourself and valuing yourself. As I mentioned, people will start responding to that. They’re going to notice.
When you’re letting them know, “hey, I’m practicing taking better care of myself. I’m practicing prioritizing getting enough sleep or good things to eat or rest or enough play time” then it gives people an opportunity to *love* you. It gives them an opportunity to demonstrate their love for you in terms of acts of service.
When you pull back, and you’re not over-giving, it allows you to receive. And it allows them to love you. Does that make sense? This is really big concept. So sometimes we get so focused on taking care of other people that we’re actually blocking them for being able to express love back to us, in the forms of support. In the form of them helping us out for a change.
There’s a real giving and receiving—a reciprocity there—that’s so important for both people to feel like they are contributing to that relationship and there’s a sense of partnership. And I’m talking about this even in the case of the parents and children. Especially parents and children.
When you give somebody the opportunity to contribute to you, you are honoring both yourself and them. What I call your personal sovereignty. You’re captaining your own vessel. It’s not a one-up position where you’re constantly captaining other people’s vessels and telling them what to do, at the expense of your own, right? It’s like looking out at somebody else’s vessel and saying, “hey! Go do this.” But your own vessel could be springing a leak and you’re not aware of that, because you’re focused on somebody else’s stuff.
So I want you to really consider what that’s like—you taking care of yourself. You pulling back into your own vessel and taking care of your own needs. Particularly the basic ones, like eating, sleeping, resting, having enough play time and so forth.
So that you can create a space where you are practicing self-love, you are empowering yourself to be great and to be generous for other people. And you’re also creating enough space for them to be generous with you. For them to love you and support you by giving you acts of service. By helping you out. By doing kind things for you. By making you dinner. By filling up your gas tank. So key!
So key to being able to create sustainable progress and be able to get to your goals—and to enjoy it more! Really, really important.
I mean, progress—life—it’s OK for it to be enjoyable. It’s OK for it not to be such a grind and for you to be pushing yourself so hard all the time. Ending up in a neck braaaaace!
Alright. Oh, Meg, you had something else to say: “It’s allowing others the time to give and allowing ourselves time to receive. It is harmonic balance.” Yes! I love that so much.
Vicki says, “Meg, spot on.” Beautiful, guys.
Well thank you so much for being with me today. I love having you guys here. I love your comments and I’m just happy we’re getting to have these chats more. I’m now doing these three times a week. We’ll see if that turns out to be a sustainable pace! But I’m really loving getting to share these things with you.
In addition to these Facebook Live chats, you can now also find our conversation in multiple places. Meaning: If you would prefer to watch these on YouTube or receive them in your inbox, you can go to the YouTube channel and subscribe. If you were prefer to listen to these, like Stephanie: I saw your message saying, “oh, I was just wishing I could listen to these instead of watching.” If you would like to listen or you would like to listen again, when you attend these live, you can do that now on Soundcloud. It’s almost like a podcast! I was playing with it last night, actually, and the app that Soundcloud has, which is super easy to download. Just listening back to these. And it does kinda sound like a podcast. It’s kinda wild.
So anyhow. I just wanna be here for you and being able to contribute in a way that you can use and bring into your life and start experimenting with these things. Practicing captaining your own vessel, practicing taking great care of yourself. So I am excited to hear what comes of that.
Please comment below. Send me messages. Let me know what’s going on. Always, of course, put down any questions that you have, I’m very happy to answer those. We get to learn and keep growing together. Building a sustainable momentum together. Because that’s where magical things start to happen.
Alright, my Dears! Oh, thank you, Tazz: “Thank you and have a wonderful weekend.” I will, my Dear! And I will see you all hopefully on Monday, where I will be back for our next chat.
If you want to see upcoming topics, on mapyourprogress.com/fbl for Facebook Live, I have the next three that are upcoming. You can also mark if you’re “interested” or “going” using the Facebook events things. Which, if you do mark that you’re “going” it automatically puts it into your calendar. If you have that integrated with Facebook. That can be a handy way to keep these in your calendar and have good reminders of when we’re going live!
OK, great. Meg: “Thank you!” Thank YOU, Dears. I will see you next time!