To the Capable and Over-Committed Carers of Others. Why You Must Love Yourself First
By Elli

Committing one’s care to others is important to many, but being overly so is not possible, if you don’t first love yourself.

I Was Hopeful For Some Wisdom to Help a Suffering Friend

Eight years ago, I entered the cafe and waved to the woman I had arranged to meet. She was barely more than an acquaintance, but I knew she had some experience of counselling people dealing with grief. I was hopeful she would be able to give me some wisdom about how to help my friend who was suffering.

I grabbed my coffee, and pushed aside the feeling of frustration that this was how I was going to be using my short amount of kid-free time. It had seemed like the right thing to do last week when I had made the arrangement.

The counsellor listened to me and my request for wisdom. She told me she had a book I could borrow.

I Was Asked A Question That Caught Me Off Guard

Then she stopped, put her head to one side and, and looking me right in the eyes asked:

“And, how are you doing?”

Her words caught me off guard.

I didn’t know how to answer.

Momentarily, I considered giving her the standard answer, ‘Fine, busy and tired, but fine,’ or maybe the joking answer, ‘I’d be fine if it wasn’t for those pesky kids’ (cue Scooby-Doo style laugh).

I realised I Was Going To Have to Be Honest

But quickly I realised, this was not going to cut it. I was going to have to be honest.

Pausing for a moment, I bit my lip.

I thought to myself, ‘Where were these tears coming from? How were they already streaming down my face and dripping off my chin onto the table?’

Starting to talk slowly, I found I couldn’t and  didn’t know how to stop.

Life Was Too Much

I was exhausted. Life was too much and I wasn’t up to it. I found the kids hard work and I knew I was meant to find them a blessing. Having just returned from a trip to direct something in London, my life felt like disaster. A waste of time, energy and money. I was barely sleeping, and I didn’t know how to switch off or relax. Life felt relentless and everyone always wanted something from me.

I was sure everyone else was coping better.

They seemed to be thriving while I was barely surviving. I was frustrated with my own limitations, and had lots of responsibilities that were meant to feel like gifts. However, they felt anything but.d

Drowning in everybody else’s needs, I couldn’t meet them. This left me feeling I had let everyone down, and like a failure.

The Outpouring Of Emotions I Experienced That Day Took me By Surprise

The emotions that poured from me that day took me by surprise.

I had hidden these feelings of inadequacy and inferiority for a long time because I was ashamed of being and feeling this way.

I had no idea where to go from here and how to recover the person I was sure I once had been, adventurous, fun-loving, opinionated, and energetic.

iam1in4

A lot has changed since then.

If I could tell that overworked, overcommitted and overwhelmed girl three things which would give her hope, this is what I would say:

Three Hope Filled Suggestions for the Overcommitted and Overwhelmed

One:

You don’t need to do anything to be loved. As you are, here and now, messy and vulnerable, good days and bad.  You are loved, you are accepted, you are a human being with the divine spark within you. As such, you have a place here, and you are loved.

Two:

You don’t have to do it all. I know it feels as though life is chasing you around, and there is never enough hours in the day, but don’t have to do it all. There is no need to be pushed around by everyone else’s demands on your day. You don’t need to take on everyone else’s burdens and stress. Also, you can choose, and will learn, to make time for you.

Three:

Your health is more important than anything else. It is more important than those people you don’t want to let down, or the home-cooked meals you feel you must make. Also, it is more important than the appearance of success, or having it all together. An important thing to remember is your health is more important than the responsibilities you don’t know how to say no to. Your health is more important than the ridiculous expectations you place on yourself. One’s health comes first. Your physical health, yes, but also your mental and emotional wellbeing. There is an important need to secure your own oxygen mask before you attend to anyone else.

Love Yourself First

I know I am not alone in feeling overworked, overwhelmed and overcommitted.

Also, I know I am not the only one who struggles to think about her own needs, because everyone else’s needs seem to shout so loud.

It is no secret that I am not the only one who finds saying no difficult, and wants to please all the people all the time.

However, that is no way to live.

Living For Others Ends in Anxiety and Despair

Spending your time always taking care of the needs of others while ignoring your own, always ends in despair and stress and anxiety.

Living the life you think you should is nowhere near as fun and fulfilling as living the life you could if you freed yourself from the expectation and comparison game.

Let’s be brave and love ourselves first.

Reproduced with permission, originally published here. Elli at The Hippo Chronicles offers an e-mail series on 60 second meditation for when you are overwhelmed and Seven days of hope.


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