Choosing you

Theoretically almost everyone will agree that it’s important to take care of yourself. Which makes you wonder why it’s so hard in day to day life to choose yourself.
The most important reason for this is choosing yourself generally means saying “no” to someone else, either directly or indirectly. I’ll use some of the situations that I ran into in the last few weeks as examples.

  • Shall I accept the 3rd and 4rd goodbye-dinner invite this week? Even though I’m tired and my irritable bowels have been irritated for a couple of weeks already. Because I feel honored to be invited and I want to show that by accepting the invitation.
  • Do I agree to work three, instead of two days next week, thereby shortening my much-needed holiday and the time available to buy Christmas presents for my family? After all people have planned some things that they really need (want) me to be present at and that are understandably difficult to reschedule.
  • If I agree to the above, do I then take this Friday off, to compensate.
  • I feel flattered that many people want to discuss their business goals with me. However, with a potential group of 300 people to discuss goals with, an already busy agenda and a limited amount of introvert energy available for meetings, where do I draw the line?

Accepting dinner invites, meetings and additional work all means that you can make other people happy. If you are lucky they will show their appreciation and that in turn will make you feel good. Saying “yes” is the easy choice, resulting in the instant gratification of gratefulness of others.

Declining invites and kindly refusing more work, or properly compensating for it is hard work. I like the people that are inviting me. I really do feel honored and flattered and want to help whenever possible, especially if it means I can support someone’s growth and development. This is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding sides of my job.
Saying “no” means I’ll disappoint people. If I accept all invitations and requests though, I will feel terrible because my bowels will get into a worse state with each dinner and my energy levels will plummet due to too many meetings and not enough quiet time.

While it seems like just going with the flow, accepting invitations and requests is the easiest option, you should factor the consequences into your decision. In my case it would mean that I would be in pain, stressed out and because of that probably quite fiery.

  • While being at the dinners, I would worry about what to eat and how much longer I would have to sit at the table dressed nicely, instead of being able to lay down in jogging pants.
  • Even though I would meet with everyone that asked me to discuss their goals, I would be tired and stressed. Which in turn would mean I would be unable to focus and listen carefully to what they have to say, see things through their eyes and tap into my creative energy to come up with ideas that can help them.
  • I would spend an additional day in the office as requested, but I would be stressed out and annoyed, because of my inability to manage my time off and my agenda. And because I would be annoyed at myself for being a pushover.

Even though it seems like accepting everyone’s request is the nicest thing to do, nobody will get the best version of me. They’ll get me in a tired and grumpy mood, low on energy and in pain. None of them will be able to see that clearly, because you are the only one who can determine how you feel exactly. Other people can’t feel what you feel and because of that they can’t make decisions for you. You have to listen to your body. Not just quickly for a few minutes when something is hurting, or before you go to bed, but really paying attention to how you are feeling. Are your eyes burning, your bowels feeling uncomfortable, or your arms stiff? Are you short tempered or unable to concentrate? Based on what you feel you can make the best decisions. For yourself and for the people around you.
Make sure you make the choices that mean you can be the best version of you.

I don’t want to leave you with a cliffhanger, so here’s what I decided to do:

  • I went to two goodbye-dinners and one goodbye-drinks for just two hours. I respectfully declined one dinner invitation.
  • By asking several people for a bit more information on what type of information they were looking for from me related to their goals, I was able to at least give them a partial answer, or a referral over email, thus limiting the number of meetings.
  • I agreed to work three days next week, but took this Friday off. I did feel guilty about that until lunchtime, which of course is a bit daft and a less than optimal way to spend my day off.

I decided to take care of myself before pleasing others several times. It’s not easy, but I know that I have to stay in touch with what my body is trying to tell me and act upon it. Both for myself and for everyone around me.

Listen to your body. It's smarter than you.

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