“You’re being selfish.” These were the first words that were thrown my way from the irritating little voice in my head that I refer to as my ‘bad news filing cabinet’ when I was recently presented with a COVID-based opportunity.
I was finally travelling again and delivering my workshops interstate when it became a real prospect that lockdown 4.0 was imminent for Melbourne. Luckily, I have an incredible wife who suggested that I don’t come back into lockdown but rather stay away as the following weeks work had all been cancelled, and it wouldn’t be much fun.
My first thought went to self-care, and what options I had to take this opportunity of a week away from home, where all of a sudden, I had a chance to practice what I call the 4R’s – Relax, Reflect, Recharge and Reset at the well-known Elysia Wellness retreat in the Hunter Valley.
A great way to spend a week to fill my cup, recharge the batteries and step back into some better life habits that were starting to fray somewhat.
“So, it’s alright for you to spend time having massages, eating well, exercising, practicing meditation and generally relaxing while others are locked up in their houses for a week?”
There’s that voice again reminding me of my selfishness.
It’s not the first time I have heard this voice and recall making a decision to move from one field of work to a completely different one. This was the time when I decided that making decisions for self and self-care reasons were not selfish. In fact, they were not only better for me but also for others who had been experiencing a version of me that wasn’t useful to any of us.
So, what are five things I have learned since I embraced the selfishness/self-care conflict that kept being thrown at me by that little voice?
- You’re no good to anyone if you’re ‘no good’ to yourself – in order to care for others, it must start with caring for yourself physically or emotionally. Fill your cup of care first so that you have some to share with others. It all starts with self.
- It’s a bumpy ride – there’s no perfect road to deal with the conflict of selfishness and self-care. That voice in your head will keep on creating roadblocks, potholes and stop signs by reminding you of your selfishness. Hold your nerve when the road is not clear and remember nothing worth pursuing ever really comes easy.
- Don’t wait for that event – remember that precise second you heard of the sudden loss of a dear friend or had a major health scare? All of a sudden it seems an opportune time to start looking after yourself. Not everyone is given the second chance card and you may be one of the unlucky ones. It’s too late then to worry about selfishness.
- Clean out your bad news filing cabinet – as survival species, we’re prone to hear the negative news and fear loss more than we value gain. If you have created an identity and reputation of being selfless and caring (even if it’s to your detriment) then there is much for you to lose particularly if we’re continually reminded by that little voice of unreason. When the voice turns up, step back from the emotion and screw that A4 bad news story up and place it in the shredder. This is a step in the self-care direction.
- Remove the last three letters from the word Selfish – this was the BIGGEST lesson for me. In order to be effective in the leadership of team and organisation, it all starts with the leadership of self. Simply drop the last three letters off the word selfish and it opens you up to new possibilities you couldn’t see.
The next time that irritating voice in your head delves into its bad news filing cabinet you have a choice to make – Is it selfishness or self-care?
It might not like your answer but others will benefit when you start embracing self-care as a differentiator for effective leadership of others.
What are you waiting for?
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