Feel the Guilt and Do it Anyway!
By Suzanne Blake

Being “Selfish” Can Benefit Others
Would you believe that taking care of yourself first (in other words, being “selfish”) is good for you and for everyone around you? We are often programmed to disregard our body's signals and our own intuition, and we think about others at the expense of our own needs. Although it may seem counterintuitive, taking care of ourselves can be the very best thing we can do for everyone else. As a life and business coach, I have watched hundreds of my clients adopt the standard of taking care of themselves. They obtain huge results; better relationships, physical and emotional health, increased productivity and more enjoyment of life in general.

You Have More to Give When You Practice Self-Care
Think about how you respond to the needs of others when you are rested, have been away, or have had time to pursue some of your own passions and interests. When our batteries are charged, we tend to be more generous, spontaneous, loving and open. Our minds will be clearer, and our responses can be more genuine and creative. Give yourself permission to attend to your own needs so that you have more to give to others. If you don't remember what this feels like, it's a clear signal to take some time off ASAP!

Fill Up Your Energy Banks and Watch Your Life Soar!
I know that taking care of yourself is easier said than done. Our culture rewards over-achievers, especially encouraging women to do it all, often at the expense of their health and happiness. Of course it's wonderful to be nurturing and giving to our friends and family, but not at the expense of some of our own desires. It's very tempting to respond to the needs of others, because our hearts and our egos get some short-term immediate gratification when we pitch in. However, if it's not balanced with some deposits to ourselves, our inner bank accounts run dry. Not only do we have less to give to others, but when we do give, it often comes with resentment. Taking an hour or two away from our to-do list by reading, walking in nature, not answering the phone or email, talking to a friend or colleague, or buying a small treat can quickly refuel us and get us going in a more positive direction.

Feel the Guilt and Do It Anyway
We often feel "guilty" when we take care of ourselves. However, we can learn to feel the guilt and do it anyway, just like we may have learned to feel the fear and take action. We have to reframe the concept of taking care of ourselves (feeling “selfish”) to realize that we are really being "self-supporting.” Instead of letting guilty feelings be a stop sign, let's see it as a yellow light! After a while, you can get used to feeling the guilt and may find that you like taking care of yourself. If you start to take care of yourself and feel guilty, pat yourself on the back because you are headed in the right direction! You are breaking old habit patterns and setting a great example for everyone else around you! You will also have more energy and compassion, too. Challenge yourself to do 2-3 “guilty” activities each week!

Create A Compelling Vision
If you could wave a magic wand, what would you love to do if it wouldn’t make you feel guilty? How would you truly like your life to look? Take a moment to dream a bit without worrying about how you would implement your dream vision. Imagine how it would feel to be more relaxed, filled up, empowered and lighter. Think of others who embody some self-care and boundary setting practices that you would like to institute in your own life. Keep your focus on this positive vision to motivate you to create new perspectives and practices.

Say YES to Yourself and NO to Your Inner Critics
Great! So now you are all fired up and ready to take care of yourself! You will encounter some inner and outer obstacles. We all have an inner critical voice that likes to keep us comfortable and safe. When we begin to move towards better self-nurturing and saying "No" to others, this critic wakes up and tries to keep things status quo. It will tell us that we are being selfish, that our friend or family member won't like us, that this will damage our relationships, that others will think badly of us etc., even if we don’t have whatever is asked of us to give. It's a good idea to name this voice, which makes it less powerful. Then, when it starts to undermine our self-care plans, we can use positive self-talk to take away its power. For instance, you can remind yourself that it's just "Bernie" or "Nina"' talking, trying to keep you stuck and safe. You can tell "Bernie" or "Nina" that it will all be okay, and suggest that they go be guilt police for someone else! The good news is that underneath that critical voice is the voice of reason and wisdom. However, you have to practice self-care and feeling guilty a while before this positive, wise voice can creep out from underneath the louder voice of the inner critic. Turn up the volume on your wiser voice, and avoid listening to the critic! Keep reminding yourself it’s okay to say no to less than optimal opportunities, and continue to give yourself permission to up your “guilty” pleasures.

Take A Stand for Yourself
You may have conditioned others in your life to be dependent on you. It will take some practice and time for them to learn to fish for themselves instead of you fishing for them. It may be challenging at first to set limits and boundaries and ask others to look for their own answers. If we see delegation as a tool for developing others, it can help us let go, delegate and mentor instead of doing all the work.

Learn To Be a Master at Delegation
What tasks have you been taking on that you can delegate to others? Where are you taking on unnecessary responsibility? Although giving up responsibility and delegating may at first feel like you are losing control, remind yourself that the cost of doing everything for everyone is high! Who can you begin to trust to take over some of your tasks to free yourself for more fun, creative pursuits, social time or exercise? Remember that they won’t necessarily do it your way, but it will get done. What is draining your energy that you could release?

Keep Your Commitments to Yourself
Another reason it's challenging to practice self-care is that it's easier to break commitments with ourselves than it is to break commitments to others. We can have the best intentions of taking that walk, signing up for a class, or saying no to one more request for our time. Because there is no one but ourselves to disappoint, it's easy to renegotiate our commitment to our own goals and tell ourselves it's not really important, we are too tired or we will do it next week. If you honor your commitments to yourself in the same way you honor your commitment to others, then you raise your self-esteem and inspire yourself and those around you! Asking others to help you honor your commitments to yourself is a great way to keep focused on your self-care mission.

Try It, You’ll Like It
Remember the cereal commercial where the older kids encourage the younger child to "Try it, you'll like it?” Initially, most of my clients find it awkward and uncomfortable to decline invitations, to resist the urge to offer help, or set some “Me” time aside. Like wearing high heels for the first time, or trying to hit a fast pitch, it's challenging and tense when they first start out. However, once they experience the wonderful after-effects and see how good they feel after their "guilty" activity, it's gets easier for them to maintain their self-care practices.

Moving Forward
What would be the most fun or important self-care commitment you could make to yourself? What could you do that would make you feel REALLY guilty? How would your life be different if you took action and made your self-care a priority? Think about what shifts you would have to make in order to keep this self-nurturing commitment a priority. What supports do you need to stay on track so that you fill yourself up and feel the guilt but do it anyway? Write down the answers to these questions and begin to put self-care appointments into your calendar to help you stay on track.

Author's Bio: 

Suzanne Blake, is an International Coach Federation Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with 10 years of coaching, training and business consulting experience. She is the author of the relationship book: "Great News in the Dating and Mating Game!" Her diverse coaching and counseling background allows her to quickly and effectively create dynamic change and results for her clients. Suzanne works with individuals and groups to create the career, relationships and lifestyles they truly desire.

Suzanne’s consulting work has concentrated on delivering results-oriented leadership and communications trainings and change management programs for Executive and Management Teams for clients including: EMC Corporation, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Arnold Worldwide, The Ad Club Leadership Forum, the Massachusetts Senior Women’s Bar Association, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

A keynote speaker, trainer and spokesperson for the coaching profession, Suzanne's coaching work has been featured in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Smart Money Magazine, on CBS Affiliate Boston WBZ Television News, and ABC Affiliate Boston WCVB Chronicle Magazine. Suzanne works with clients in person in her Brookline office or via tele-coaching with clients world-wide. You can reach Suzanne at suzannecoach@aol.com, http://www.suzanneblake.com , or 617-730-9848.