I got out of the car yesterday balancing my bag, a pair of shoes that weren’t mine, a tray of sausages, a bag of apples, a loaf of bread and three noodle cups, yes I had forgotten the shopping bag again. Combine this load with a distracted mind as I was thinking about what to get the older kids for dinner before getting Lexi back to school for an event and that I had to go and try and fix the pool pump before doing anything else and anyone could see that overload was a real possibility. Not just a possibility but more of a probability.
As I turned to shut and lock the car door I squished the bread, dropped a noodle cup which I immediately reached for and in the process of reaching I dropped the apples. As I stood and watched them roll down our very uneven, bumpy concrete gathering bruises with each second I realised something.
My first reaction was not to call the person who had left their shoes in the car or ask my 11 year old to help or to put things down and take two trips or to just stop and breathe and laugh at myself. My first reaction was to chastise myself, to put myself down, to make the bruised apples entirely my fault. And not just my fault but to make them a much bigger issue than they really were. In that moment they become so much more than apples, they became or could have become if I let them, an indicator of my success or failure, a sign of my ‘rating’ as a mother and maybe even as a woman!!!
Crazy!!!!! Sound like a bit of an exaggeration? A bit extreme considering the circumstance?
Maybe but may of us do it.
How often do we think it is automatically our fault if our partner is in a bad mood? How often do we think it is our fault if our child gets upset and we try so hard to prevent or take on that pain for them? How often do we say yes to someone because they need us when really all we want to do is say no, even when we need us to say no? How often do we take undue responsibility for our child’s choices?
Why do we do this? Why especially as mothers do we think we have to do it all and if we can’t do it all we are the first to claim ourselves as inadequate? Why do we think we are responsible for everything? Welles’s verging but our own comfort and joy.
And we don’t just do this physically, like me yesterday trying to carry everything. We carry others things. The emotion The pain The planning The responsibility The problems
We want to protect those we love from pain and hardship. We want to provide better and better opportunities for others. We try to shield and protect and build everyone else up. We want to be there for everyone.
But what about you?? What about me?? What about us??
We put everyone else first. We do this at the risk of ourselves, our own well being and our own identity. So often because of this we then fall apart ourselves and at that point we aren’t much help to anyone.
As mothers or maybe women or even perhaps just people we tend to take on a lot of the physical, mental, emotional and energetic responsibility not just of our children and partners but often friends, co workers and extended families and we just keep doing it. We don’t want to be seen as selfish. We don’t want to be inconvenient. We don’t want to be seen to cause pain!!
The thing is you can’t hurt enough to prevent the pain of another. You can’t do enough to take the responsibilities of another. We all have to walk our own path, they have their journey to walk and it will involve responsibility, disappointment, joy, hurt, success and failure.
So often this is the reason behind what we do. We are trying to ensure our loved ones avoid pain. The pain of inconvenience The pain of disappointment The pain of rejection The pain of responsibility
What we must realise is that firstly to be the best mother, partner, friend, daughter, work colleague, boss that you can be you have to put yourself first. You have to look after you!! Being the best you can be in any one of the roles is not about preventing another person from experiencing pain it is about being their for them and showing them ways through it. It is about being an example to them of how tall they can stand, how strong they can be, how they can feel the full spectrum of emotions and still survive. It is about showing them that it is not just alright it is vital to put yourself first and look after you before you look after others.
It is about allowing them their journey but letting them know they aren’t on that journey alone.
We don’t burn out because of everything others expect of us, we burn out because of everything we expect of ourselves. We don’t burn out because everyone ignores us, we burn out because we ignore ourselves. We don’t burn out because no one listens to us, we burn out because we don’t listen to ourselves. We don’t burn out because no one else helps us, we burn out because we don’t help ourselves. We don’t burn out because no one prioritises us, we burn out because we don’t prioritise ourselves.
When we don’t prioritise ourselves, listen to ourselves, allow ourselves to feel and take time for ourselves we risk feeling overwhelmed, robbed of joy, exhausted, unable to cope. We can feel emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted. So often we feel empty and on edge, scared we might crack at any moment but so determined to hold it together for everyone else.
We lose our own joy!!
Are you just juggling too much. Are your apples about to fall from your hands and roll along the ground?
Being real about your own emotions doesn’t cause others pain. Their pain is theirs to experience. Asking for what you want and need doesn’t deprive another of their wants and needs. Taking time for you doesn’t stripe another of their time. Handing someone’s responsibility back to them doesn’t make you irresponsible. Saying no doesn’t make you a bitch. You can’t hurt enough to take away another’s hurt. You can’t protect another from their own journey and lessons and learnings.
The best thing you can do is look after you, let yourself feel and heal, put yourself first, take time for you. When you do this you can then stand beside others and truly support them. You aren’t distracted by trying to pick up your apples as they roll down the drive getting more and more bruised.
How much are you carrying that isn’t yours? How much are you trying to shelter others from their own experiences? How much are you taking responsibility for what isn’t yours? How often are you going to bed tired, emotional empty, beat and crying into your pillow because it is all too much? How often do you turn your back on your needs and joy to try and meet the needs of others?
You can’t keep doing this!!!
If you want to be the best parent, partner, friend, colleague, boss that you can possibly be then become your own best friend and put yourself first. Those that matter will ultimately thank you and those that don’t will fall away!!
Don’t risk dropping your apples. Stop, breathe, connect, get honest and put yourself first.
Not only do you deserve that, those you love deserve it to because it is only when you do this that you can be the best version of you for yourself and for others.