Life is a delicate balance between taking care of yourself, and others. An error in either direction can have serious negative impact on your health and happiness.
John was obviously anxious. “I’m not used to being the one who needs help,” he blurted, even before we could start formal introductions.
Through our early coaching sessions, he told me his story.
John is a professional, a fellow physician. He was exhausted. From the day he left high school, he had been on a mission. He cared deeply about people, and wanted to help those suffering the burden of disease. He had given of himself, unselfishly, throughout his exceptional career.
But now, he was burnt out … with nothing more to give.
Gratitude is a powerful healing force that I recommend to all my clients. Early on, I give them a homework assignment designed to find and celebrate their strengths.
If you’d asked me to do this for John, it would’ve taken me less than five minutes. I could come up with a thorough inventory of wonderful assets—intelligence, sensitivity, empathy, compassion, kindness, strength, an analytical mind, foresight … the list would have continued.
But John really struggled with the task.
As he worked through his homework, the shocking reality dawned on John … he was almost invisible (to himself).
Through years of service to others, he had carefully directed his full attention away from himself.
Lucky patients. Lucky colleagues. Lucky wife. Lucky children. Poor John!
Over several months, with deep reflection and courageous honesty, he unearthed the underlying reasons for deflecting his focus externally. He had been escaping childhood traumas that deeply eroded his sense of self value.
Today, John will share his strengths with you with appropriate modesty, but real pride. He still appreciates the benefits of purposeful living—serving a cause bigger than himself. But he now understands that this is only possible when complemented by adequate SELF-care.
I have met too many invisible people, especially in humanitarian professions, who hide from their inner fears in outward service to others. The outcome, while initially beautiful, is not enduring.
The cost of unreplenished giving is simply not sustainable.
John isn’t his real name, but I can assure you that he’s a real person. Like you, he’s a hard-working, caring human being. He had the courage to reach out for help, and more importantly to undertake the inner pilgrimage. His bravery has been rewarded, and he is now more fully alive; excited about his future.
What about you? How good are you at taking care of your SELF?
Here is a simple test for you. Do you find it easy to come up with birthday or holiday gift ideas for family members, but struggle to give them a list of ideas for yourself?
If so, perhaps it’s time for your own inner journey!