Taking Care of Yourself First

A friend who is off work on stress leave asked me to write something about preventing stress. In her words “so many people in the workplace, especially new Canadians, are too afraid to do what is necessary to take care of themselves.” Today’s subject will be about being selfish.

51yn0o2-ZtL._AA160_Thomas Leonard, the originator of coaching, said that being selfish is not about putting yourself first at the expense of others. It’s about taking care of yourself. No one else can do that for you; you must take care of your own needs. Here are Leonard’s Top Ten Ways to Become Incredibly Selfish:

  1. Change your thinking about selfishness – it used to have a bad name, now it’s developing a good name. Throughout history survival meant that we had to take care of each other, and so we were taught to pay attention to others’ needs.. Lots of Bible stories suggest that denying our own needs and putting others first is ideal.. But how can we take care of others needs if we pay no attention to self care? By denying our own needs we are placing responsibility on others to take care of them.
  2. Know what you want and say so. This helps others relax because they are not left second-guessing what you need or want. Of course, this needs to be stated in an undemanding way so that the other feels they are in choice about complying.
  3. Selfishness is usually the first step to getting your needs met and building a reserve. Having reserves are a key to becoming attractive. Many people do not have reserves in all areas – love, energy, money, space, time, opportunities, etc. – but the more reserves you have the more able you are to afford no-strings-attached generosity.
  4. When you become truly selfish, you’ll have the extra reserves needed to really care about and be generous with others. Being selfish does not mean that you are unwilling to help others in need; it doesn’t mean you are a jerk. It’s impossible to not notice and respond to the poverty and plight of people trying to cope, but we are not able to do much without our own reserves. Of course, we must have clear, solid boundaries that prevent people from draining us.
  5. Stop hanging around folks who abhor selfishness. People who build their identity on “doing good” are often feeding a large ego, and those around them get drained just trying to feed it. When you are truly able to give from your reserves you are not looking for something in return.
  6. Unhook yourself from the negative connotations of being very selfish. Selfishness can include egocentricity and insensitivity, but that doesn’t make those works synonymous. You can be overly sensitive to others needs and suppress your own to the extent that you find yourself withdrawing from others. By being really clear about who you are and what you need you become a nicer person to be around and so you attract people and situations that feed your soul.
  7. Spend the next seven days doing something very very selfish each day. Begin by making a list of seven things you really want but haven’t been able to let yourself have. These can be both tangible and intangible. Now decide that you deserve them, and then go after them. Of course you won’t put yourself in debt doing this, but you will begin to notice how nice it feels being good to yourself. ┬áThat’s the trick – be good to yourself!
  8. Say ‘no’, just because you feel like it. This muscle needs exercise and practice. Remember that children in the terrible two’s say ‘no’ most of the time. It’s their way of exploring and expressing their sense of self. A lot of us need to re-discover this skill.
  9. The real value of becoming selfish is to give your gifts room to develop. Gifts and talents are rare, wonderful and valuable. They need to be nourished so that they come into bloom. Taking care of yourself is the plant food and sunshine.
  10. Take what you feel you need, even if it seems that others won’t get as much. The wisdom of this becomes more obvious when considering our time and energy. Neglecting our physical needs makes us ill and unhappy and this puts a burden on others.

Source: The Portable Coach by Thomas J. Leonard with my observations added.

Coaching Questions to Stimulate Reflection About Your Life & Work

  1. Describe your energy level right now.
  2. How would you describe your level of neediness?
  3. What personal needs are you denying right now?