In years of teaching mindfulness, I’ve yet to meet a woman who always puts herself first. Whenever I teach the airplane analogy (‘You need to put your own oxygen mask on first before you can help others – without oxygen you’ll soon be no help to anyone anymore’) they can sort of see how that makes sense, but…
Always a big but (no pun intended).
I remember one lovely lady getting almost angry with me for emphasizing self-care so much. ‘I’ve been taught to put others first and I think that is a GOOD quality!’ she exclaimed. ‘I’d become a total egotist if I was always wondering ‘what do I need, am I comfortable, can I handle this?’
I get where she’s coming from. These internalized values are powerful.
And so, many of us have excellent, finely tuned antennas pointed outward. We feel our client, our student, our patient. We know what they need, we know how we can make them feel better, we almost know what they’re thinking before they think it.
But what about those inward pointed antennas? Are you using them with the same enthusiasm and care?
My guess is that very often, you’re not. You’re too busy tuning in to others, taking care of others, meeting their expectations, fulfilling duties, working on improving yourself (more qualifications, anyone?).
But you know what?
Your lack of self-care is doing no one a service.
When you are in the people business, YOU are your main instrument.
If you were a violinist in the London Philharmonic, you wouldn’t dream of neglecting your violin. That violin would be like your dearest friend. You’d invest in a solid, perfectly fitting case. You’d keep it wrapped in silk, you’d keep the temperature constant, you’d make sure you renewed the strings regularly. You’d keep it tuned, and out of the sun. You certainly wouldn’t leave it lying about anywhere, or let others treat it casually – hah, you’d probably not even let anyone else touch it. You’d play it hours a day, to get to know it so intimately that you’d become as one.
Not because you were pampering or spoiling that violin! But because you and that instrument can then be the source of heavenly, magical music.
So why are you not treating You like you would treat that violin?
And this is not just about taking care of your physical needs. It is also about knowing yourself intimately; knowing your inner workings, knowing the eb and flow of your energy, your emotions, your creativity. Knowing where your wisdom resides, and how to access it. Knowing your tender spots, and how to take care of them so they don’t cloud your judgment when they get prodded.
You need to be the expert of you.
In fact, that is the only thing you need to be the expert of. Of course you need to know your trade too. But that is just your sheet music. What you really need to master and take super good care of, is your precious instrument. So you can play it like it wants to be played, and make it sound like its unique self. Only you can do that.
It is your life’s purpose.
Because this is your divine mission: teaching your students, clients, patients, that they, too, need to be the expert of themselves.
p.s. Radical self-care and wisdom for professionals like you will be central in my wise women retreat in October (South of France!!). If self-care is not your top priority, you are not only selling yourself short, but ultimately your students, clients and patients too. But what is self-care? How is that a professional instrument?
I am so excited about the retreat I’ll be leading in October. Zen, mindfulness and compassion practices, soul wisdom, intuition… And gorgeous food, the beautiful French countryside, walks, yoga, inspiring people, silence.
You can be part of it. Check the info page and sign up for a chat if you’re interested – I’ll talk to you soon.