I’m noticing a pattern in the work I’m doing with women who want to make important shifts to their lives. Even though they really, really, REALLY want to make changes, they find it difficult to follow through on the teeniest of tiniest CONSISTENT action steps that change requires.
In order to change your life, you kinda have to put yourself FIRST — even if only for a few additional minutes a day.
Inevitably, they make this statement, “I feel like I’m being selfish for …”
… having lunch or taking a pee break (Yes, I’m talking to you, Sweet Pea!)
… taking three weeks off to pursue yoga teaching
… spending some of our family money on myself
This is particularly difficult for women in “helping professions.”
When they started this work, the thing that rang their bell was alleviating the suffering of others.
And yet, because these women are actually PEOPLE, they have sorrows and worries and fears. While they have IMMENSE compassion for the suffering of others, many of them have little to no compassion for themselves.
When you are a woman, you KNOW suffering.
If you are a consciously aware woman who also happens to be a citizen of a developed country, compassion for self can feel, well, selfish.
I hear things like this –
“I feel so guilty for feeling unhappy in my marriage/partnership/relationship because I know that all over the world, women live their entire lives in a culture of unremitting disdain for women.”
“I feel so guilty for missing work when I am sick because I know that there are so many woman “out there” who don’t have jobs, or healthcare, or Pamprin, or whatever.
Compassion for self is a tricky thing.
One way that achievers achieve great things is that we deny our own pain. We don’t allow it. We tell ourselves we don’t have time for it.
But a lack of compassion for self is NOT a sustainable long-term model for life.
If, over years, your UNREMITTING policy for dealing with adversity is to pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and get back in the day-to-day battle of caring for and alleviating the suffering of others, what eventually happens is that you get physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.
And if you don’t PREEMPTIVELY recognize this exhaustion for what it is – a serious threat to not only yourself, but ALSO your ability and willingness to do your work in support of others, then you will eventually meet up with some serious calamity that will insist you take yourself out of the game, sometimes forever!
So, the next time you are at a turning point in your life, the next time you have the courage to admit that your current way of living is no longer working for you – the NEXT time you want to make a change in your life that requires “letting others down in the short run” to pursue a greater, healthier realignment of how you are living your life, ask yourself this –
Is it selfish?
Or, is it soulful?
Photo: Flickr, tom@hk