One topic that repeatedly emerges in my therapy sessions is the experience of people who express that they work hard, they are busy, overwhelmed, tired and ultimately, life leaves them feeling depleted. This applies to both men and women. Often though, one does not recognize feeling depleted because it appears as feeling irritable, resentful and angry.
In this blog, I want to focus on balance, but I want to talk about it in a way that you might not have considered. When we are depleted, we need self-care but many tell me that they are too busy for self- care. However, my suggestion for self-care will take zero time out of your day and yet it can have a powerful impact.
In my last blog I suggested to you to “have the relationship with you that you want with others” What does this mean? I’m sure you have heard the cliché “you must love yourself before others will love you”. I don’t completely agree with this cliché, I love others who struggle to see the goodness in themselves. However, I do agree that we need to work on loving ourselves – but how do we do this – “love ourselves”? And what does this have to do with balance?
We live mostly in a world where we look to others for validation, empathy, compassion and acceptance. This is not wrong – at all!! However, this does need to be balanced with you giving all of these gifts to yourself.
Many say to me – “I’m much harder on myself than I am on others.”
All of us want loving, compassionate and empathetic relationships and yet I hear many people being self-critical, harsh and lacking in compassion toward themselves.
A short story about Casey (not his/her real name):
Casey was devastated by the break up of a long-term relationship and, more so, by the realization in therapy that s/he had not been treated well in this relationship. It was evident to me that Casey is a kind and loving person who was clearly taken advantage of in the relationship and, more importantly, not loved in the way that all of us deserve. My client was more of a giver – the other was more of a taker. There was clearly an imbalance of giving and receiving in their relationship.
In therapy, we have been working on self-love, self-compassion and self-empathy, but Casey has struggled to find the way toward this path as family and then lovers have been harsh in their treatment. Childhood messages from others of being a loser who was fat and lazy have stuck, despite career success and being loved by many friends.
I suggested Casey begin a new relationship with his/her self by being kind and simply saying “I love you Casey” (I encourage one to say their name – the impact is more powerful). In the struggle with self-esteem and self-worth Casey did not think speaking with oneself in a positive and loving way was possible.
Casey persisted in believing that s/he could not do it so I had to be creative and I suggested that Casey love his/her self the way that s/he loves the pet cat Bailey and the way that Bailey returns love. I persisted with the suggestion of beginning each day with a simple “Good Morning Casey” amended, when ready, to “Good Morning Casey – I love you Casey” or “Have a good day Casey”. At the end of the day… “You’ve worked hard today Casey” or “You look nice Casey” or “You deserve to be loved Casey”. I mentioned that at some point s/he would actually feel a warming physical sensation in the body when doing this work.
The next week Casey came in for our session – s/he was excited to share with me that not only had s/he done as I suggested, s/he had also felt the physical sensation in the body. It was something s/he had not believed was possible but as s/he shifted toward self-love, Casey felt it! S/he shared that s/he had decided to love oneself the way that s/he loves Bailey, the pet cat!
Casey also shared that s/he was not feeling so desperate to be in another relationship. Of course, Casey would enjoy a loving relationship, but as s/he is beginning to balance giving to self, s/he is recognizing the necessary balance of meeting one’s own needs. Casey also recognizes that change in self-esteem and self-worth will take time, however the process has started with a sense of hope.
The more that Casey learns to have a good relationship with self, the better s/he will learn what to look for from another person. And better yet, Casey will not tolerate being taken advantage of because s/he knows what to look for in terms of how one should be treated in relationships – all of one’s relationships. Balance will now be part of relationship with self and with others.
We are taught to seek external acceptance, love, compassion and approval (again, this is not wrong, we all need these things in our life) however, we are not taught the necessary balance of giving it to ourselves. We internalize the voice of others and believe it is our voice we hear.
Find your loving voice – very often it is the voice that you give to others and not to you. Finding balance in self-love allows you to connect with others in a way that you feel worthy of love and connection from others. Finding balance in self-love is self-care which all of us need in the challenge of life.
If you are skeptical – try it anyway. My client did and was pleasantly surprised. You may not notice an immediate change however; remember – just as it takes time for the body to change when we exercise – it takes time for self-esteem and self-worth change too. Oh, and don’t forget – whatever you decide to say to you – say it with your name!! It makes a huge difference.
Two more suggestions for you!
In regards to life balance, I find life to be busy and, since I work in the giving profession, I have to be mindful to stay in balance. Actually, I have two daily reminders in my phone – the first is to ask myself “do my choices soothe my soul?” Obviously not all of my choices will do so – however, it is a reminder to continually check in with myself. I have obligations, like all of us, and there are times when I plow through my obligations without checking in with myself. When I check in, I realize that there are times when I’m in a better place (not as depleted) to follow through with obligations. Even small things, such as making a phone call, completing tasks or having a conversation with my husband when we need to make decisions – if I check in with myself I find that I am less depleted and more respectful of me and my precious time.
My second reminder to myself is to “stay in balance”, this means ‘looking out for me’. Even if it is just an acknowledgment at the end of the day of the hard work that I have accomplished. It’s odd to do so, but it does feel good. And the best part – I am not suggesting anything that takes more time away from you!
Thanks for reading!
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If you want to learn more about relationships – I wrote this for you “Ten Essential Things I’ve Learned About Marriage & Relationships” I’ve included the lesson that saved my marriage. I care about the work that I put out to you, and I hope you find it helpful. Let me know!
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One more thing… I really would love for you to share your thoughts with me. It’s not easy to do, I understand because it took me a long time to work up the courage to begin blogging! But I want to get to know you. When you feel ready, please feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comment section. And, if you would like me to blog about a specific topic – let me know!
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Details of any stories told in my blogs have been changed to protect the identity of people that I work with in therapy.
Photo Credit: GabrielCaparo@flickr.comShare