“When do I get to come first?” “When will I be someone’s priority?” “When is it my turn?”
How often have you asked these questions or a variation thereof? How much time have you spent crying because you just don’t feel valued? You give and give and give of yourself, and yet, no one returns the favor.
In October of 2013, I found myself curled up in the fetal position on my dining room floor, sobbing like I had never sobbed before. My heart was in a million pieces. I was scared, confused, humiliated, and I felt utterly alone in the world. I said over and over as I sobbed, “This is not my life. This is not my life.”
Those three questions I asked at the beginning of this piece were part of my daily … mantra … for lack of a better word. I was stuck in emotional muck that came up to my hips. I was struggling to get out. Yet I stayed trapped. I felt helpless.
That day I was a blubbering mess on my dining room floor I got my answers to those questions.
First of all, if it’s not my life, whose is it? Well … it’s mine. I hate this life. No one can change it but me.
Second of all, I get to come first when I put myself first. Why are all the other people in my life more important to me than myself and my own well-being?
Then I had to ask, “If I don’t make myself a priority in my own life, who will?” The answer – absolutely no one.
My turn is now. Because it is time for me to start treating myself with the same love, kindness, and compassion that I show others.
That felt uncomfortable. It felt selfish. It felt … well … icky. And to quote a friend and fellow coach, it made me “squirmy” inside. “Who am I to put myself before others? I’m nothing special.” Except. I am something special. And so are you. The Buddha had this to say about holding space for ourselves:
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the universe, deserve your love and affection” – Buddha
Whoa. That’s huge. I deserve my own love and affection. You deserve your own love and affection. You are as deserving of that love as the next person. And yet … we don’t give that to ourselves. We do not hold space for ourselves. It’s much easier to do that for others, isn’t it?
I am currently enrolled in a self-directed coaching program on leadership. The first thing I learned in this program is that I must lead myself first. I’m great at leading society. It’s my calling. It’s engrained in my soul to help others. I don’t know how else to be. On my leadership assessment, I scored a 93 out of 100 on my ability to lead my community. That felt really good. For a second … lol.
Know what my “leading yourself” score was? 73. Not so hot. Especially not for a chick who digs getting A’s. That’s a C. I don’t love that. So … how do I fix that?
I hold space for myself. I allow myself to screw up without judgment, just like I do for everyone else. I allow myself to be afraid without judgment, just like I do for everyone else. I surrender to what is. To quote one of my favorite John Denver songs, “Looking for Space,”:
“On the road of experience. Join in the living day. If there’s an answer it’s just that it’s just that way.”Windsong, 1976
I don’t need to be perfect. I am as I am. Just that way. And that way is perfect in its imperfection. You are as you are. Perfect in your imperfection. Just as you look at your spouse, your children, your best friends, you can look at yourself – perfect in your imperfection, deserving of love, kindness, and compassion.
People talk a lot these days about self-care. And I’m glad they are. But what we aren’t focusing on in that process, is holding space for ourselves. For some, self-care is retail therapy. For others it’s a mani/pedi. For still others, it’s a sweet treat. Maybe your self-care is a nap when you have a list of things to do a mile long, but you honor your need for sleep. However, often, when we do these things, we feel guilty. “I shouldn’t be spending time or money on this.”
That is when we need to hold space for ourselves. “This makes me feel good. The world will not fall apart while I do these small things for myself. I honor myself and understand that it is okay to do things for me because I deserve it. I am worthy of loving.”
Be your own best friend. Hold space for yourself to work through your struggles the same way you do for your friends. Show yourself compassion. Stop striving for an A. I’m a C when it comes to self-leadership, but guess what? That means I have a lot of room to grow.
No one is perfect. We all deserve love. And the most important person we will ever love in our life, is ourself.