I had a realization the other day as I got out of the shower: I’d fallen off my own list of things to do. This was a confusing thought, because I’m the first person to toot the horn of self-care and putting myself first when feeling run-down and so on. It’s what I encourage people to do every day. Heck, it’s the whole railroad spike-sized point of this blog.
So what happened? How did I get so off track? How did I move from both talking the talk and walking the walk to just talking the talk?
Well, some reasons I know, other reasons aren’t as clear. The point is — I did.It happened slowly. I think it first began back in September of 2012 when I injured my elbow badly and had to stop exercising. I couldn’t even do yoga, because so much of it is arm-oriented (weight bearing). That slowly slipped me into a funk. That started the well-hidden, but just as devastating slippery slope. I can’t say I didn’t feel lit happening — I did. But at the same time, I didn’t. And when I did notice it, I felt like there was nothing I could do.
Once you get into the mode of victimhood thinking, it’s tough to get out.
One thing I noticed after I had my epiphany in the shower was that I’d started thinking of my own goals and desires as One More Thing to Do. Drudgery. Instead of putting myself at the top of the list and attending to my personal needs first, I’d lumped myself in with, well — yes. Drudgery. The bills. Vacuuming. Laundry. Emptying the dishwasher. Cleaning my apartment. Somehow, somewhere, I became less a person to myself and more something to attend to — somewhere between getting my socks and underwear folded and cleaning out the refrigerator.
So how did I get out of thinking like that?
First, I accepted I’d done that. That I’d let myself fall off my list. Then I began making it a point to keep myself at least in the top five, if not three.
On more than one occasion I’ve asked clients where they are on their list of important things to get to, I’ve either gotten the answer of a confused, “List? What list?” or “Why would I have myself on there? My family’s more important. And then there’s the projects I have to do for work, and then my mom needs me to d0 this, my sister that, my neighbor this….” Or something to that effect. When I asked why they weren’t on there, I was met with even more confusion.)
Putting yourself at the top of the list isn’t selfish. At least, not in the negative way people tend to think of it.
If you aren’t taken care of first — at least 80% of the time, say — then how can you have the wherewithal and energy and inspiration to attend to things? The people above, as was I, were feeling royally burned out. Unimportant. Unnoticed. Taken for granted — by everyone else. But the thing is, and this is really key: People will treat you in the same manner as you treat yourself. The vibe you give off is, “I’m not all that important. I walk all over myself so feel free to follow suit.”
If you’ve relegated yourself to dangling off your own list, to that status of the dried goo, then that’s how other people will start treating you. Not everyone, of course. Family and friends who truly love you won’t. If anything, they’ll be the ones kicking you in the butt to stop thinking that way. But other people will. (Co-workers, for one).
There is an aspect to self-esteem with getting into that place. Self-confidence, too.
My last post works well about how to get started in getting yourself back on your list of pirorities. Small steps build to larger ones. I suggest, however, slow and steady — not like you’re in the middle of a cornfield with an airplane strafing you. This isn’t life or death, all or nothing (another view I realized I had). You’re not a computer living your life on binary coding, ones and zeros — on or off.
Yes, maybe You/I Should Have Known Better. But that doesn’t matter. You got there (I got there), and snarking at yourself for having done so just keeps you there. Self-snarking isn’t an action step. It feels (sort of) good, but it’s about as helpful as complaining about the goo in your fridge and then closing the door on it again.
So where are you on your list? Where do you want to be on it? And how can you get back there?
Questions? Comments? Email me at heather (at) smallchangelife (dot) org or drop by my Facebook page and leave me a message, leave a comment below or feel free to start up a conversation in the discussion forum.