I have a question for you.
Yes you, sitting there, paying attention to your fantasy team and reading this blog post. (Thank you, by the way, for reading this post.)
When’s the last time you made time for yourself?
When’s the last time you even put yourself second?
Heck, if you named all of the people you are caring for in your life right now, are you even on the list?
You're a generous soul. I know that you are. You often put your own goals or needs aside for the sake of taking care of someone else. You volunteer for fundraisers at church, you drive your kids and their friends to practices and games, you look after your aging parents and neighbors.
The list goes on and on.
You never say no.
Intellectually, you know that you need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of everyone else. That if you don’t address your own needs you’ll never be able to provide for all of the other folks in your life who rely on you.
You know this.
But knowing that you need to make it happen. As I hear everyday from so many people - I know what I need to be doing. I'm just not doing it.
We all have our reasons for saying yes to everything. So many of my clients are good and kind people who genuinely want to help as many people as possible.
But it's also more than that.
We not only want to help others, but we can't stand the idea of letting someone else down. Many of us know that we need to care for ourselves, but feel guilty if we do. I am so good at guilt. I'm gifted really.
For me it’s a combination of wanting to help and feeling guilty if I don’t help. But sometimes I also want to fill my time focusing on other people because I’m afraid to focus on myself. Sometimes I’m afraid that if I have too much time in my head, I’ll sink into another depressive episode.
Sometimes an exclusive effort on other people is a great tool for avoiding our own self-work. I have plenty of my own flaws to work on, but if I say yes to enough other people, I don't have time to work on or even think about my short-comings.
The thing about saying yes to everyone though, is that it eventually catches up with you. Maybe not that day, or that week, but somewhere along the way you have sacrificed sleep, rest, alone time, and find that you are exhausted, short-tempered, and frustrated.
As most of you know, I spent my senior year of college in the convent, with the Sisters of Saint Joseph. I learned a lot living in community. The most important lesson was to never snap Sister Nancy in the butt with a towel.
But the second most important lesson was from Sister Mary, a campus minister who often worked with overtaxed college students like myself.
“Do you say no to anything?” she asked me one day.
I shrugged my shoulders. No, not really. I can’t say no, I said.
She looked at me.
"Then don't think of it as saying no," she said. "Think about it as saying yes to yourself."
That was one of the greatest "aha" moments I had in college.
It’s not about saying no to someone. It’s about saying yes to yourself.
My challenge to you today - yes you - sitting there, drinking your coffee - is to think about something you can do for you today.
Say yes to yourself.
You are important, just as important as everyone else. It’s hard to believe that I know. But that doesn’t make it any less true.
Say yes to yourself.