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Are you better at prioritizing others over self? It’s an issue that many clients have brought to their coaching conversations. Time and again they place everyone else’s needs ahead of their own. Whether in the hopes of gratitude, appreciation or the belief that it’s the right thing to do, prioritizing others over self can at times come at a cost.
As nurturers, women and some men, hold the belief that taking care of others is their top priority.
When months or years of doing this, without being aware that their own mental or physical health is now suffering happens, there is a cost of ignoring self care. It can come to a head by their own health issues, someone pointing it out, repeatedly, or reaching a point of resentment. When any of these things happen something has to change. It now becomes time to learn the lesson that prioritizing others over self every time, comes at a cost.
There can be a few major life events that can begin to crumble the belief that taking care of others should be your top priority.
– becoming a mom
– taking care of aging parents
– losing independence once in an intimate relationship
Personally I learned the lesson when I became a mom. My baby always came first. Until the point where I could no longer function from not enough sleep or time away from him. If I was going to maintain my sanity I had to let something go. And that was the belief that I was the only one who could take care of him. It was a hard lesson. But it didn’t take long to see how it benefited both of us when I was better rested and had given myself some adult time.
Another hurdle I observe with coaching clients, that has them prioritizing others over self, is that they are pleasers.
They derive their sense of worthiness from pleasing others. If their efforts result in thanks or attention there is a reward for the effort. But once again the inability to be able to say no sometimes comes at the price of physical or mental health and can create a sense of resentment. When we lose sight of our own needs and feel resentful towards others it’s hard to remember that we played a role in creating this feeling.
Shirzad Chamine wrote the book Positive Intelligence. He speaks about what, as a coach himself, he has observed as the 9 saboteurs we all have in us. When it comes to the cost of ignoring self care, the Pleaser saboteur can often be the one playing a role in this behaviour.
He states that when our Pleaser saboteur is speaking to us it creates the following feelings;
– expressing own needs feels selfish
– worried that insisting on own needs may driver others away
– resents being taken for granted but has difficulty expressing it
Taking time to become aware of when that Pleaser voice is speaking the loudest and working at learning to turn the volume down, is one way to begin to offer your self care.
HOW COACHING HELPS
A coach’s purpose is to help create self awareness in their clients. By the time a client reaches that stage of resentment, or exhaustion, they are ready to reach out and make a change in their lives.
The coaching relationship is a place to notice their actions and habits. To start making different choices by speaking out loud what they observe when they become aware that they are often prioritizing others over self. It’s a place to be held accountable to showing up differently in their world. To become more conscious of the choices they are making in what may otherwise seem like the smallest of moments.
The purpose in working on this in coaching isn’t to begin to swing the pendulum from no self care to selfishness. Instead it’s to strike a balance where your ability to help, care for and support others, no longer comes at an emotional or physical cost to yourself.
And isn’t that really what self care should be? The ability to be able to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of others. You can’t help the family member in the plane seat beside you if you don’t put on your own mask first.