A first-time client, let’s call her Betty, was telling me about where she was right now in her life. She was exhausted and I could see this in her eyes and hear it in her voice. Her light-hearted spirit was anything but light. There was a heaviness around her that didn’t really feel like her.
I could sense this was a heaviness of her choices/circumstances, certainly not of the compassionate, warm, giving woman who was in front of me. What was underneath the heaviness, her spirit, was anything but heavy. From what she had told me before we met, I knew this was a big reason she was coming to see me. She missed the person she once was as well as the one she knew she could be.
She filled me in on the many roles of her life – mother, wife, daughter, boss, non-profit chairperson to name a few. I could feel the weariness in my own body as I heard her describe all that she was fitting into a day. I asked her, “What kinds of things do you like to do just for you?” She said, “Well, I go to the gym when I can.” “Great!” I said. “Exercise is so important. What else?” She thought for a while and then began to give me a list of things she used to do, but didn’t have time for anymore.
I asked her what it would be like to find and take some time for herself in the next week. She was adamant that there wasn’t any time to do that. I asked her how it would feel if we were able to find some time in her schedule for her to do something just for herself? She said it would feel really good. I heard there was more and said, “And?” Betty answered, “Well, sometimes now when I do things just for myself I feel guilty – it feels a little selfish.” Yes, I thought, that’s what I suspected.
The Shift from Selfish to Self-Full
I am still a little surprised when I hear people out in the world expressing that taking care of themselves seems selfish. I hear so much talk about Self Care out there and since there’s so much talk, I guess I think we would have come further by now. It’s just that so many people are simply talking and not practicing it.
That honoring yourself by putting you first is selfish is an old belief and there’s no better time than now to shift it. That’s why I am now using a new term to describe this beautiful, courageous act – Self-Full. It sounds a lot better than Selfish, don’t you think?
And let’s get clear. I don’t mean you shouldn’t be doing things for others or that you shouldn’t consider others. What I do mean is starting with YOU.
What is Self-Full for you?
Here are some questions to get you started:
- What do you value most and how do you honor that in your daily activities?
- What do you say yes to and what do you say no to and why?
- What are you committed to and what do you do out of obligation?
- When do you take some time just for yourself so you get clarity about where you are and remember who you are?
When you are clear about who you are and are honoring that person instead of who you think you should be, you are Self-Full. Selfish means you are thinking only of yourself with no regard to others. Self-Full means you have filled yourself up first so helping others feels fulfilling and energizing. Win-win!
When you start with YOU and are taking time regularly to consciously connect with what is most important to you, there is a lot more clarity and direction. You have more awareness of how you are spending your time and why. You are able to say no to activities that deplete you because you know that by saying no, you are doing everyone a favor. As you fill up more and more, you are able to be present, to give, contribute, listen, communicate and BE at a completely new level. That’s what being Self-Full allows for – and the possibilities are endless.
Exercises to start today
Becoming Self-Full takes a bit of training if you aren’t used to it. Here are a few exercises to get you started.
Exercise 1: Start noticing how you spend your time.
You can be like a researcher with this one. Notice how you spend the hours in your day – both during work and play time. What do you notice after you have spent time in a certain way? Does it energize you or deplete you? Be curious.
Exercise 2: Ask the magic question “Why am I doing this?”
There are lots of reasons we do something – because it fills us up, because it is important to us, because it leads us to where we want to go, because we are committed to a cause or outcome etc. I also get the answer, “because I have to” a lot or “I have no choice.” I LOVE this answer because it leads to more exploration. You don’t HAVE to and you always have a choice. So if you find yourself answering in that way, you can then ask, “What is it that I am choosing here?” For more on this, check out a past newsletter The Wisdom of Choice.
Exercise 3: Create some Sacred YOU Time.
This is a BIG one. What does THAT look like? you might ask. Well, it looks different for everyone. And for some people it might sometimes be 5 minutes a day or it might be 1 hour a day. It could be an activity, an artistic endeavor, a walk, journaling, listening to music – anything! It is Sacred because you don’t give it up. If you need to move it to another time, you do. You don’t skip it. If this were a child you were caring for, would you skip it? No. So why would you skip it for YOU? If you would like support with this, read Guided YOU Time below.
Small Steps – Big Difference
The last time I saw Betty, she reported that she had brought out some of her old paintings. She wasn’t quite ready to start painting herself, but just having them out was reminding her of how connected she feels when she is doing something creative.
She now has a practice of Sacred Betty Time which includes different things that refuel and fill her up. She is dedicated to this time for herself. She has let go of some of her commitments and is much more present in all of her roles. There is a lightness around her – both inside and out and each time I meet with her I see more and more of HER. What a beautiful sight.
When we are Self-Full, we are able to connect with who we REALLY are – not the obligations or shoulds or busy-ness of life. We are able to meet our commitments in a way that is full and not depleted. We can tap into an inner fuel that allows us to give, contribute, BE at a level that is easeful and powerful.
I like to ask the question, “What if we were all Self-Full? What do you think the world would look like then?” Can you imagine? Just feel into that for a bit. And this month, the invitation is to experiment with the idea of being Self-Full. That vision of the world being Self-Full starts with YOU. Play, Explore and Enjoy!