For many years while my kids were at home, and even after they were gone, I would shoulder anybody’s tasks that they couldn’t get to. Need to run an errand? Let me, my time is flexible. Didn’t get around to finishing that assignment? Not a problem, I can finish it for you. I even took on emotional problems. Somebody is making you feel sad? Here let me make you feel better. I tried to “be there” for everyone. No problem was too big or too small – my shoulders were broad and I could handle them all.
Until I couldn’t… One day I realized that I felt like I had a red, concrete Target ball balanced on my shoulders. That’s about 1,200 pounds. I felt like it was crushing me. I felt resentful, and I had gone past the point of genuinely caring about anything or anybody. I went on a woman’s retreat where I learned about caring for myself. A few days later, in my imagination, I took the entire Target ball off my shoulders and put it on the ground, and slowly backed away from it. I decided that if I felt resentful for helping, then I needed to step back a bit.
We know that women have a list of priorities for their lives, but what I learned at the retreat was that we also need to be on the list, near the top. If we are not meeting our own basic needs, we can’t help others. It was like a revelation to me that I should come anywhere on the list at all!
I honestly thought that if I served enough that someone would notice how much I was sacrificing and take care of me. As a result of my “others first” priorities I was suffering. I was overweight, had autoimmune illnesses, and I was exhausted and short-tempered a lot of the time.
While I was studying the scriptures one day I was reading about Christ teaching what the most important commandment was. He said “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” He then went on to say “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Matthew 22:37–39).
After reading those verses over a few times I had a great epiphany, an Ah-Ha moment! Could it be that Christ was telling us that we need to love ourselves? That we should be on the list with our neighbors? I think he was and I’ve come to realize that we can’t do a good job of loving others without first loving and caring for ourselves.
Often, we try and take care of others when we are hungry, need to use the bathroom, exhausted or in pain. We put our needs off, thinking that they don’t matter, or that someone else will meet our needs. If you think about it, would we ask a friend to ignore what she needs until she breaks? No, because it would not be a loving thing to do. Then why do we ask this of ourselves?
I learned that it was my job and my responsibility to start taking care of myself. It’s my job because I am the best person for the job and I am the only one who can determine what I need and provide it.
Here are 5 ways that I learned to remove those “Target Balls” from my shoulders:
- We belong on the list – when we make a list of our roles and our priorities, we belong near the top. For me, I made a list of all my roles and my priorities and then ranked them from 1-5. I learned that I couldn’t manage more than 5 or 6 priorities in my life. I next made a series of concentric circles and put myself and my husband in the middle. We are my number one priority. My immediate family comes next. Everything else goes on one of the outer rings of the circle. The miraculous this is – I have found that I have all the time I need to for everyone in all my circles. Without working myself to exhaustion.
- Each of us have physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs. We need to be the ones to take care of each of those aspects of our lives. We must recognize our needs and “make time”, not “find time”, for things such as exercise, meditation, prayer, journaling, and enjoying the scriptures.
- A simple to memorize, 1 minute breathe in, breath out, deep, slow, calm, easy, smile, release meditation can do wonders for our mind and spirit.
- Don’t always volunteer to rescue others so quickly. Let them take care of their problems and don’t always rush in and try to save them. This is a lesson taught by Byron Katie. There are three kinds of business: mine, yours, and God’s. We each need to learn to stay in our lanes. We each need to take care of ourselves and let God take care of everything else.
- Choose service mindfully. There are more opportunities to serve than anyone has time for. Each of us can slow down and decide what is important to us and what we have time, energy and resources for, then we can enjoy every minute of this service.
Realizing I had a huge “Target Ball’ on my shoulders and taking it off was one of the best things I’ve ever done. With all the time and energy that I’ve received back from not being in everyone else’s lane, I have time for every important thing that I want to do. And my favorite part is that instead of feeling resentful, I am serving in a more loving way.
You are welcome to signup for my email list and get the free resources that I offer to the list. Today it’s a useful tool to help identify all your roles and priorities in our lives, then order those priorities from an inner to an outer circle. The resulting visual can help you see where you need to put your time, mental and physical energy.
If any of this resonates with you and you’re not sure how to start, please contact me. I would love to get on a call with you and discuss how I may be of assistance.