Sometimes you need to come first.
Ok, honest question here. Don’t give me the good girl answer or the answer you think you are meant to come back with. Take your time and really think about this one.
How often do you put yourself first? I mean really first, your needs ahead of your family, your partner, your kids, your parents, your colleagues and your friends.
I know you might think about it at times but do you act on it?
I’m not for one-minute suggesting that we disregard the needs of others. Serving others is one of the greatest pleasures I have had the privilege to experience but I’m talking about in general everyday life.
How often do you take priority and allow yourself to occasionally be a little self-indulgent?
Digressing for a moment.....
It’s my belief that you choose the family you are born to. Now trust me, I’ve struggled with that at times, sorry in advance to my family. We have lots of similar traits my family and I, yet often feeling like the black sheep I’ve regularly joked that I must have landed in the wrong place. I’m not sharing anything with you they wouldn’t say themselves. My difference and outspokenness has been a thorn in my side for many years and it’s got me in more trouble than I can begin to explain. It’s not a bad thing, it just is and I’ve learned to embrace it.
But I know I chose my Mum…she may not agree with this but she really has been my greatest teacher in this life so far. She would be the first to admit that she takes care of others before she takes care of herself and I believe she taught me how to be caring, compassionate, generous and bloody organised…that woman could put the military to shame when it comes to organisation. Yet the greatest lesson she ever taught me was an indirect one. Through her constant selflessness she actually taught me that it’s ok to be occasionally selfish. Not in the mean, it’s all about me way, but in the it’s ok to take care of yourself every now and then kind of way. I didn’t learn this by watching her do it, in fact I learned this by the absence of her doing it. As a child and even now as an adult, I’ve witnessed her put everyone else ahead of herself and it’s made me sit up and take notice. Whilst she gets a lot of joy in looking after my Dad and her family I can see the impact of putting yourself at the bottom of the family food chain. That’s the lesson she learnt and the generation she grew up in and I’m sure many of you have similar experiences with your mothers. But somewhere along the way I decided I didn’t want that for myself. I was going to take all the good lessons I got from her and share love, generosity and compassion yet I was going to include myself as a recipient.
Now this doesn’t mean I’ve practised self-love and care from an early age. In fact, not surprisingly I decided to learn much of this the hard way. Poor body image, obsessing about the wrong boys as a teenager, an unsuccessful marriage in my 20’s, endless ridiculous diets that just caused further shame and self-criticism and a general lack of confidence. Yes, I chose a challenging road for many of my lessons but all have lead me to the same destination and realisation that sub consciously I was probably learning as a young girl. There is that part of me that encourages women to speak up for themselves, that wants our society to take better care of the elderly and thinks of the Mum at home who is feeling undervalued, unheard and forgotten. It’s not a quest to save the world but a recognition deep in my core that every individual matters and needs to focus some love inward as well as outward.
So how can we expect others to do this for us if we can’t do this for ourselves? It has to start with self-love. The ability to look in the mirror and know that you are ok, just as you are. To give permission to yourself to say yes to things, time out, a break, a course you want to do or even just a night out with the girls. If we can’t stand up and give ourselves permission to do these things and believe that we deserve them, then who is going to. If you are waiting for someone else in your life to do that for you it won’t be sustainable. This is something you have to feel in your core and exude to the world…your value, your worth.
I recently met a beautiful woman, a mother, who was struggling with the decision she made to put herself first. Now I’m not talking about someone who left her family, to pursue her own dreams selflessly forgetting everyone around her. No, I’m talking about someone who went away for 2 nights with her girlfriends for a weekend. A whole two nights for herself where she could be who she wanted to be, no responsibilities and just time for her. The guilt she felt whilst away almost undid the whole experience, but I’m hoping that just the practice of stepping out of her comfort zone, even just once for those 2 days has shifted something inside. My hope for her is as uncomfortable as this was, that she experienced some benefits and will give it another go…maybe this time with a quarter less guilt. Why she felt this guilt could be all wrapped up in the beliefs she has of what a Mother should be doing, who knows, but I believe the only one who was the feeling the angst that weekend was probably her.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Where did we get the memo that we don’t matter in our own lives, that what we want doesn’t count? When did focusing on motherhood, career or both, mean that you give up everything else you cherish or dream about? Once upon a time you were a young girl with likes and dislikes, who became a teenager and young woman with hopes and dreams. Then you moved into career or motherhood or both, some of you pursuing your dreams or not. You may be living them and many of you may have put them on the shelf for now. Is there a way you could dip into those dreams and desires and maybe test the water and see if they are still of value? Do they still excite and inspire you and if so, how can you move towards them even if only slowly for now?
So who is going to make the change…where does it start?
Working in the world of travel I know I’m fortunate to be given the opportunity to travel often. Many years ago when Charlie was 4, I was offered my dream trip, an air safari to Kenya. Now even in my world trips like that don’t come around very often and yet my first instinct was to say NO! I’m a mother, I have a 4-year-old of course I can’t go. Did I mention it only cost $1000…and I still turned it down. It wasn’t until I was talking with the lovely Donna, my son’s kinder teacher that I got my slap across the face…not literally. She just looked me in the eye, shook her head and said you are bloody mad …accept that trip. Your son will be fine. I have so much to thank her for and am grateful to have been put in front of a woman that saw my value and worthiness. She knew and understood the value of what I as being offered, even if I didn’t and gave me the reality check I needed. Boy was she spot on. I’m not denying the logistics in organising the home front for me to take this trip were gruelling. Meals were prepared, pickups and drop offs organised for 10 days, family and friends called in to help, yet somehow it all came together. I even managed to reschedule my husband’s eye surgery by a week. See where there’s a will there’s a way and I just knew it was something I needed to do and found a way to make it happen. Now I know I have my critics, and have seen the looks on some faces when I say I’m off again on another “work trip” but that’s who I am. That’s what fills my soul. It makes me a better mother, it educates me, it keeps me connected to the world and introduces me to new people, cultures and opportunities. It fills up Jo…not the mother, the wife, the daughter, but the person I am deep inside. Taking this away from me would be like removing a body part, I’ve been travelling since I was 5 years old. Doesn’t mean I can put on a back pack and travel the world for 3 months at a time. Life has changed, I have a family I love and want to be with and a grown up job and responsibilities, but when there are opportunities for me to put myself front of line for something I love and it isn’t hurting anyone, then I’m going for it!
It might be a dance class you are wanting to sign up for or a course you want to do. Maybe you want to learn how to use your camera, start painting or even learn to meditate. It doesn’t matter what it is, what matters is if it means something to you that you don’t dismiss it because you feel you have other roles to play. Our dreams and aspirations are part of us. They are our joy and our light and when we dim that light it doesn’t just become dark for us but for those that we touch.
The word inspiration literally comes from the Latin spriare “to breathe” so in effect to breathe into. If we allow ourselves to feel inspired and act on that aren’t we simply just breathing life into ourselves.
Personally I cannot think of anything better.
Can you give yourself permission to put yourself first every now and then?
What dreams and aspirations can be taken down from the shelf, dusted off and explored?
Got you thinking?
Love and light