When someone said the words “self-care” to me, my former self would ask, “what does that even mean?” and “why is it important?” and “when am I supposed to do this? with what time and energy!?” Yeah, if that sounds like you, I get it. Taking time to care for yourself or do things to improve our happiness and quality of life isn’t really talked about that much. It seems to be an afterthought, something you can get to after you’ve done all the other to-dos or a luxury you only get to experience once you’ve reached “success.” And we tend to live in a society with a lot of positive reinforcement to do the opposite of self-care. Sacrificing personal needs for work and professional achievement is greeted with a lot of praise, social acceptance, better evaluations and promotions at work, etc. You start to gather the notion that putting your own needs aside is necessary to be successful. And don’t get me wrong, this is true to a small degree, but out of our desire to “succeed,” we can easily take it too far and find ourselves in some pretty miserable situations. Situations where we’ve given away too much, compromised too much, put who we are and what we want on the back burner for too long, or maybe never even considered what we want or what would make us happy as a factor in our career decision making. And maybe this works for a bit, we get the fancy job, get promoted or are able to feel like we’re ‘getting ahead’ in our career. But, at the end of the day you’re left with an emptiness and perhaps starting to question what all this sacrifice is for. Starting to question the sacrifice = success = happiness equation.
What if I told you you could drop the sacrifice and flip the success and happiness in the equation? You’d be left with happiness = success. Yes. Is this blowing your mind? “But how?” you ask. The answer: self-care.
Ok, so what do I mean my self-care? It can be defined a lot of different ways. To me it’s a pretty broad and all encompassing term to mean following that which makes you feel good.
To many, self-care has a negative connotation. They think it means slowing down, being unproductive, giving up on going after our goals and giving up on getting the success we want. But that’s only the case if those goals aren’t aligned with you, what you really want, and what feels good to you. Some of the most successful people in the world gained their success by following their interests, what they liked to do and what felt good to them. They followed what makes them happy to success. I know you know of people like this. Why can’t it be you?
This notion that to be successful we will have to work against ourselves just isn’t true and often times, doesn’t even pan out in anything more than some short lived, unsustainable form of success. What if your needs, who you are, and what you want was aligned with your work? Work wouldn't feel so much like sacrifice anymore would it? You’d be driven by a natural desire and flow. Things could feel natural and….easy *gasp*.
Ok, so where do we start? How do we flip things around so happiness = success. This is what I work with clients on in my practice and I could go on in detail for a long time here, but I’ll restrain myself. To start, we go back to basics. Start with small things that make you feel good and experience happiness and do them as much as you can. Maybe it’s been a while (or never) since you focused on feeling joy and making it a priority. Try it out as an experiment, see what you discover about yourself and what you like. This is how we find out what lights us up. To start, it’s often easier to do this in areas outside of our current work, but if you have the flexibility to play with your work, go for it. Then, when you have a grasp on what it is that makes you feel good we can get creative in finding ways to make that a larger part of your life and move your work in that direction. How? There’s lots of ways to do this and we can talk more about that later so, let’s not worry about that for now. Right now, just take some first steps to learn more about yourself, experiment and play. Discover what feels good and excites you. Have fun with it!
In the bigger picture, what you may also find down the road is if you’re following happiness and feeling good each day, your ideas of success may shift. You were likely going after those goals just as an attempt to feel happiness and you just went straight to the source. Boom. Game changer.
My bottomline in all of this? If you’re finding yourself sacrificing and working against yourself in the name of success and some future happiness, self-care is your ticket out. Discover and follow what feels good. Just try it out. Worst case, you’ll have spent some time learning about yourself, having fun and feeling good. Best case? You’ll find your way to happiness and all the success you want.
If you’re looking for some more one-on-one help with this and navigating your way, check out my coaching programs.