Strong, independent, nurturer, caregiver, wife, mother, sister, adult, employee, co-worker, family doctor, playmate, friend, and the list goes on! Oh yes! We have rightfully earned the title of “superwoman” because we have the uncanny ability to meet all the demands, from others, that have been place on our lives. But is being “superwoman” killing us? In trying to live up to this superwoman persona, we have unconsciously allowed our needs and wants to fall by the wayside. Unfortunately, by the time we get around to caring for ourselves, we are so burnt out that we don’t have enough energy left. Sadly, this leaves us fatigued, bitter, angry, feeling guilty and so on. It also makes us more susceptible to mental health challenges, physical illness and even death.
Societal beliefs, cultural norms and unhealthy intergenerational patterns that have been passed down from great-grandma and nem have in many ways indirectly and even directly contributed to this superwoman persona. We try relentlessly to live up to this image; which in turn creates all sorts of internal chaos and dysfunction. Meanwhile our spouses, partners, children, co-workers, etc. continue on thriving while we’re barely surviving.
While as very flattering as it is to be all things to everyone, we need to lovingly shift our focus and attention back to meeting our own needs first. Is this selfish you ask? Absolutely not, it is what I like to refer to as the law of self-preservation! During a flight, the flight attendant clearly states if there happens to be a loss of cabin pressure during the flight that you must first securely fasten your own masks before assisting others. “First securely fasten your masks before assisting others” is the exact approach we need to take for our lives. In essence, the bottom line is that if we are not whole, healthy, happy individuals then we are not in a position to be of support or assistance to anyone else.
It’s time to reclaim the number one spot in our lives. Loving ourselves first has to become the priority! I’d like to share with you some practical ways to begin your journey today. Keeping in mind that this journey may be one of challenges and change, so I encourage you to be gentle and forgiving of yourself as you learn to love yourself first.
So How Do You Reclaim Yourself?
Self-Acceptance. To thine ownself be true! In order to love yourself, you must be true to who you are! This can be achieved by embracing and honoring who you are and where you are at this very moment in time. Self-acceptable also means understanding that you are not perfect and knowing that’s ok. Beauty is not defined by perfection but rather character. However, if you find something within your character to be unfitting, self-acceptance empowers you to actively seek out ways to improve that which you find unfitting. It also gives you the strength to change. And during this time of transition and growth, self-acceptance allows you to find peace and appreciation within the process because self-acceptance understands that it’s not about the destination but rather the journey.
Self-Esteem. Self-Esteem is powered by self-acceptance. Once you can accept yourself you can begin to love yourself flaws and all! When you are operating from a high level of self-esteem, you are less likely to put yourself in harms way and more likely to take care of yourself. You do not allow your integrity, dignity, safety or health to become comprised. A woman of distinction yet meek and humble in character; reputation does not become you. You do not allow others to define you. “If you don’t define yourself for yourself, you’ll be crunched into other people’s fantasies of you and eaten alive” Audrey Lorde
Self-Efficacy. In addition to having high self-esteem, high self-efficacy is an essential element of loving yourself first. Self-efficacy is a belief in your ability to succeed in any given situation. Your sense of self-efficacy plays a major role in how you set goals, approach tasks, handled challenges and overcome obstacles. A woman with high self-efficacy believes that she can do whatever she put’s her mind to. Even if she doesn’t know how to do something, she has enough dignity to ask, without feeling threaten or losing sight of who she is and her capability. However, she realizes there is strength in vulnerability and uses it as a platform to success. She utilizes her talents and gifts for a purpose beyond herself.
Self-Care. Operating from a place of self-love includes maintaining balance within the Five Dimensions of Wellness: physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional and social. The intention of self-care lies in its focus on preventative care versus treatment.
- Physical Dimension. Getting routine annual medical screening and exams such as: physicals, pap & pelvic exams, including monthly Self Breast Exams (SBE) helps the early detection of the onset of any medical conditions. Additionally, early detection can help to increase the quality of life by employing secondary prevention measures and early treatment options. Participating in some form of physical cardio activity 30 minutes per day, helps to maintain weight. Try taking a yoga, dance or aerobic class to make fitness fun! In addition to physical activity, watching what you eat is also a part of self-care. Create a balanced diet that includes appropriate servings from the basic food groups. Together, these things will help to maintain balance in the Physical Dimension.
- Spiritual Dimension. Connecting to your spiritual center on a daily basis is an important part of self-care. Maintaining this connection to your belief system and the universe helps you to stay grounded. It also helps to provide the energy you need to move forward in faith. Learning to protect your energy is essential! Your energy is the vitality of life. Allowing someone to negatively impact your energy will ultimately drain you of your power. Learning to use the arts of meditation, visualization, journaling and/or prayer helps to serve as a means of protecting and guiding your spiritual dimension.
- Mental Dimension. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Feed your mind with positive thoughts. We tend to contribute to our own demise by allowing negative thoughts to enter into our mind. If we allow negative thoughts to take over, it begins in one way or another; to affect those that we are around through thoughts and feelings transference, and through body language. Once mind-binding spirits and strong holds attack, it is hard to break free from negative thoughts and behaviors. When you begin to sense negative thoughts entering your mind, learn to redirect your thoughts. Learning to engage in activities that are positively stimulating to your thought process will help to bring inner peace and reduce stress while increasing success, improving relationships, better health, and overall happiness and satisfaction with life.
- Emotional Dimension. Women are sometimes unfairly labeled as emotional creatures of habit. Keeping emotions under control helps to create a well balanced environment. Identifying and understanding your triggers is critical in helping to maintain this environment. Learning to balancing your emotions is very important so you do not become overwhelmed. Tapping into your spiritual and mental dimensions will also assist in developing a stable and secure emotional wellness. Also, keep in mind that a little therapy never hurts anyone! As a matter of fact, therapy may be just what’s needed to help you begin to sort through your emotions and find balance. Don’t worry about what to say or how to say it, just take the first step and walk through the door.
- Social Dimension. This is the dimension most people forget about. We assume that because we are out and about in the world that we are connected. This thought couldn’t be further from the truth. Being outside of our homes does not make us whole and healthy in the Social Dimension, it just means we’re out in the public. Wellness in the Social Dimension involves developing healthy, meaningful relationships with others. It also involves spending quality time with family and friends. Refrain from isolating yourself! Find a social network to become actively engage with. Take a fun class to mingle with other like-minded individuals. While the Social Dimension is very important, understanding the importance of “Me Time” is equally important. Setting aside at least 5-10 minutes per day to do only what you want to do is imperative! Although the goal is to be socially fitting, you still want to always make your wants and needs your priority. Always remember it’s ok to say no to others in order to say yes to yourself!
As you embark on your journey to reclaiming yourself, it’s important to keep in mind that unhealthy patterns develop over time and can be difficult to face or change. Don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to take on too much all at once. Focus on loving yourself and putting yourself first one step at a time. This journey is authentically yours and yours alone. Move through it with grace, humility and integrity. You will be so glad you did!
Now, give yourself permission to take off your cap! That’s the first step to saving yourself!
I know I certainly have….