9/22/2009 4:12:00 PM Marta Adelsman Column: Put yourself first
Marta Adelsman Columnist
I felt alarmed after reading the e-mail that my friend's husband sent me. He described my friend's emotional state as "fragile." I read into his e-mail message that he fears for her mental and emotional stability.
This alarmed me, because I know my friend as a strong person. She has been like a solid rock to her family and friends. She poured herself into raising five children, and she became a nurse so she could help others. More recently, she worked with her husband doing mission work in Africa.
I also know that my friend's family background includes women who have taken care of others at the expense of caring for themselves. They have instilled in her a sense of duty to serve others. I strongly suspect that her current fragile state results from not turning the same care and service to herself.
Many of us - especially women - highly value service to others. We tirelessly see to the needs of our children, other family members, our work situations, and our churches.
If we turn our attention -- even a little bit of it -- to caring for ourselves, we feel guilty. We become so uncomfortable that we run right back into the caretaking role. We identify so much with it that we believe we are that role.
I'm not suggesting that you abandon serving others to care for yourself. It's a matter of balance. When you first begin to change the pattern of over-giving to others, it would serve you to take action that feels like too much giving to yourself. It's not! In fact, when you feel uncomfortable, you probably have the balance just about right.
Eventually, your discomfort and guilt will disappear. Your self-care comfort zone will expand, and you'll feel better about meeting your own needs alongside the needs of others.
When you don't care for yourself, life hands you reminders. Sometimes these can be severe, like the time a bucking horse threw me, resulting in a broken collar bone and ribs. You may become emotionally fragile, like my friend. You might become ill or depressed or have accidents. Pay attention to these signals!
You serve no one if you don't care for yourself. Your life of love and service shines more brightly when you polish it with love and service to yourself. By making your own needs a priority, you preserve the vehicle through whom the service comes (your body, mind and emotions), making it possible for that service to continue for a longer period of time.
Today, I'm serving myself. I'm giving myself the gift of color on my living room walls, something I've wanted for a long time but have put off because I made up I didn't have the time. I'm painting my living room for no other reason than because it gives me joy.
So others' needs will have to wait!
Dr. Marta practices as a Life Coach in Communication and Consciousness in the Verde Valley. To contact her, write firstname.lastname@example.org or call (928) 451-9482.