I was raised with a very strong focus on consideration for other people. My mother was very good at teaching us manners and she raised us to be considerate people. It somehow went a little wrong for me in that I interpreted her instruction to mean that my needs didn’t matter. I know that’s not what she intended but as a young child, this is what I believed.
It showed up in my self-talk in that I was always very hard on myself and I held myself to very high standards. I always saw that as a positive trait and a way to drive my performance at work. My managers consistently gave me feedback that I needed to cut myself some slack now and then. Since my childhood belief was so well-entrenched, I did not, or could not, heed this advice.
This belief also showed up in my behaviour. I’m the person who took on all the responsibility for everything at work and at home. I struggled to ask for help and I believed that I needed to do everything myself. I avoided asking for help because I was sure that other people had so many important things to do rather than helping me. I failed to care for myself and to make sure that life was enjoyable for me. My belief that I didn’t matter filtered through to others. How I treated myself paved the way for others not to treat me well either.
As I turned forty, I experienced a dramatic health collapse from stress. I took some time off work to recover and, in this time, I thought a lot about the sources of stress in my life and how I could rectify things. I went for a lot of coaching and I explored many ways of healing in mind, body and soul. One of the insights I gained is that I had this limiting belief that I didn’t matter. Once this was revealed, I was able to challenge this belief and to work on convincing myself that I did matter.
I had to alter my thoughts and to learn how to incorporate self-compassion into my life. I had to train myself to treat me better. Self-compassion is a strategy in creating more happiness in our lives. Dr Kristin Neff is the internationally acclaimed expert on self-compassion and she has many excellent practices we can use to build this skill on her website www.self-compassion.com.
I also had to change my relationships and I put better boundaries in place so that others knew how I wanted to be treated. This was hard work and it was a struggle to shift the patterns in myself and for those around me. In time, I started to believe that I do matter and that I deserve to be treated well. I put self-care rituals into my calendar and prioritised them as I would a meeting. Eventually these practices became habit and fully integrated into my way of thinking. I now believe that I am worthy of investment in time, love and energy.
One of the insights I gained recently from a coach is the importance of looking after our own needs. For most of my life, I put my needs last due to this limiting belief. It didn’t work out well for me. I have now realised that putting my needs first is not selfish, it’s a vital prerequisite for caring for others. For years, I wasn’t able to be the kind of mother, leader or friend I wanted to be. I was so fatigued from my burnout that I couldn’t function normally. Now I understand that I can’t be a good mother, leader or team member without taking care of myself first.
Often there are simple things we can do that can greatly enhance our lives. Asking for help from others is so important. People genuinely like to help and through this exchange, both parties benefit from growth and a shared connection. I learnt to ask my husband for help and it has been a positive shift in our relationship. Asking for help at work from your manager and team mates is equally important. Verbalising our needs with our spouse, manager and colleagues can be a breakthrough moment in getting what we want out of life. It’s hard for your loved ones and your team to deliver on what you need if they are unaware. If we start by valuing ourselves, we can learn to ask for help, to voice our needs and to build a life that becomes rich and rewarding.
- Uncovering limiting beliefs can be a powerful experience for personal growth
- Asking for help allows others to deliver and strengthens relationships
- Making sure our needs are met can equip us to be at our best