Life is a delicate balance between taking care of yourself and taking care of others. An error in either direction can have a serious negative impact on your health and happiness.
My client John was obviously anxious. “I’m not used to being the one who needs help,” he blurted out, even before we could start formal introductions.
Through our early coaching sessions, he told me his story.
John was 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 under the burden of disease. He had given of himself, unselfishly, throughout his exceptional career.
But now, he was burned 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 have come up with a thorough inventory of wonderful assets: intelligence, sensitivity, empathy, compassion, kindness, strength, an analytical mind, foresight…and the list would have continued.
But John really struggled with the task.
As he worked through his homework, the shocking reality dawned on him: 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 spouse. Lucky children.
Over several months, with deep reflection and courageous honesty, we revealed the underlying reasons for his habitual self-sacrifice and we rediscovered his appreciation for his innate 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 hardships of a global pandemic are putting many in positions where this subconscious strategy is taken to the extreme. The outcome, while initially beautiful, is not enduring.
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 an inner pilgrimage. His bravery has been rewarded, and he is now more fully alive again, excited about his future.
What about you? How good are you at taking care of yourself?
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.
These three steps will get you started:
Step 1: Write down a list of your strengths.
Step 2: Transform these words into gratitude statements that identify the value of each strength to you and to others.
Step 3: Read the gratitude statements out loud, every day. Write them on your calendar; place sticky notes that capture them in prominent places in your home and at work. Share them with others.
And if you, like John, have gone too far to start on your own list, perhaps it is time to reach out to a professional coach who will help you to find your power and translate it into meaningful actions toward your dreams.
You are designed for success. It is always in your own hands!