I’m a recovering over-achiever, people pleaser, perfectionist, and workaholic. I used to always be pushing and striving, trying to meet everyone else’s expectations. Rather than focusing on my wellbeing, I neglected myself. And the time I did take for self-care just made me feel guilty – there were other things I should be doing... I’m too busy. I've always known I need to take better care of myself, but I've not always been good at doing it. I was overly focused on everything I needed to do - for everyone else - that I left no time or energy for what I needed to do for myself. And at times, I've felt incredibly guilty for doing what I needed to do for me.
Our society emphasizes achievement and results. We put a lot of focus on activity and spend our time and energy on actions that lead to specific, quantifiable outcomes. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with setting ambitious goals and driving for results. But when we focus too much on goals and results, and we don’t allow enough time to rest, refresh, and recuperate, we’ll burn out. We carry fear-based thoughts about letting others down or not being accepted, and when we feel like we have let someone down, we carry guilt around that. But we can't let these expectations get in the way of taking care of ourselves because then we will not have enough energy to take care of others. Yes, we do play a role in helping others fulfill their needs. We have made commitments to family, friends, work, and others. But this does not mean that we need to put our needs below the needs of others or neglect our needs altogether. Other people will always have expectations of us and will always need something from us. That's just the way life works. But we can fulfill the needs of others - AND fulfill our own needs, too.
When we are busy “doing” all the time, we miss cues that our body, heart, and soul are sending us about what we need. We then react from auto-pilot, repeating unhelpful behaviors and making unloving choices. There will always be things to do. But we need quiet time and space in our days where we can be more present and pay attention to the what's going on around and within us.
The practice of deep self-inquiry is important, because within our heart is where we will discover our unique path to self-care, self-nurturing, self-healing, and self-love. Our heart is the core of our being and regulates our emotions. How we choose to respond to those emotions impacts the quality of our life. Our heart is also where true personal transformation takes place. We don’t instantly change just because we've decided to do so (although wouldn't that be nice?!). Our brain operates in the realm of facts and logic and supports us in creating plans, to-do lists and checklists. Those tactics aren't usually helpful when it comes to personal transformation.... we can't "checklist" our way to self-love.
We need to *feel* the need for change within and allow our heart to open so we can explore what's lodged there. Our first clue that change is needed is often feeling emotional anguish or experiencing chaos in our life. These are signs that we are living against our truth and are being beckoned forward; it's a calling that comes deep from within. Our mind clutters our desires and plans with doubt, uncertainty, and fear while our heart just *knows* what is right. The truth of our heart is simple and pure. The challenge is that we can't always hear the voice of our heart.
Deep self-exploration can be terrifying. We may be afraid of what we'll discover about our self and then... we will actually need to change something! Deep self-exploration and self-discovery is a longer, slower process than the quick-fix "self-improvement" projects most of us tend to pursue. It is slow and sometimes painful work. We need to choose to leave behind old patterns and unloving habits and create a new path for ourselves. As we commit to the process of self-reflection, we grow in self-understanding. We see each situation and emotional challenge as opportunities for us to learn more about our self and to evolve into the best version of our self. This requires us to pay more attention to our internal experience and habitual patterns and to be curious about what is beneath our choices and actions. It's helpful to approach these moments with openness, curiosity, and a spirit of inquiry.