I’ve been noticing a strange thing lately: many of my favorite pieces of clothing have strings coming loose. It’s not that it’s never happened - everyone’s had one or two errant strings dangling here or there - but rather the amount of loose strings. In fact, I can’t remember a time in my life when so many of my clothes are suddenly unraveling all at once.
And then it dawned on me: Maybe this is a metaphor for my life. Maybe I am “coming apart at the seams” or feeling like my “stitches are coming undone.”
Oddly, this is precisely what I have been feeling lately. From the pressures of helping to build a start-up company to keeping up with my own business to trying to be the best wife, daughter, sister, entrepreneur, employee, dog owner, friend, or human that anyone has ever seen, I am feeling very much like I’m fraying at the edges.
And, just like a thread slowly pulling out stitch by stitch, my overwhelmed feelings didn’t come overnight. Rather, it’s little things - little snags - that have added up over time.
A few stitches pulled out every time I said, “Sure! I can pull off another miracle for you!”
Five or six came out each moment I ignored my own needs in order to put others’ needs first.
A few more popped out when I knew I was seriously overworked and overwhelmed, but let myself get talked into doing even more, instead of less.
More came undone in each of the 4 (!) moves we went through in the last year alone. I acted like I did okay with it, but the truth is it wore me out.
Half a sleeve’s worth ripped out living in a place where angry dogs chased us every time we walked out the door, and neighbors refused to speak to us (not exactly the “southern hospitality” that one might hope for).
And frankly, some people in my life always have a solid grip on a thread or two, just waiting to pull a few more out, simply because they can.
With all of this, I was becoming seriously threadbare.
Worse, all this tugging and unraveling and not taking care of myself had been showing up in my body. First, there was an irregular heartbeat a few months back. More recently, I had several days of migraines with strange twitching all over my body. To top it off, I was tested for adrenal burnout, which showed that I now had the adrenal response of an 88 year old woman. Not good.
As I stared now at the thread dangling from the arm of my favorite green dress, I knew it was time to make a change (actually, it was well past time to make a change). So, in the interest of helping you if you are feeling like you are frayed and coming apart, here are 3 behaviors I am implementing immediately:
#1: Stop being everything to everyone, and be everything to yourself first.
My entire life I have focused on serving others to the exclusion of my own needs. I don’t make the income I should at the moment because I have constantly given away everything that I do, often helping others before I ever help myself. Somehow, I believed this was the right or good thing to do, when the truth is that a person who doesn’t accept energy back for their efforts - whether it is money, stuff, or whatever - cannot keep doing what they are doing. However, I didn’t know how to stop. I gave and gave and gave and gave.
As more and more people had the end of a string that I was willingly giving them, I was wearing seriously thin.
It seems good and satisfying to be that kind of person, but at the end of the day, if you don’t take care of yourself first, you won't be around to take care of others. It may not happen today, it may not happen tomorrow, but there will be a day when you will wake up and realize that you have nothing left to give.
That’s a bad day for everyone.
I once had a coach friend of mine tell me, “I always tell leaders that it’s a crime if they do not take care of themselves. After all, if the leader breaks down, it is a total disservice to those that are following him or her - they are left without a guide, and that is irresponsible.”
She was right. I don’t care who you are, you are leading someone. You may be a mom leading your family. You may be a dog owner leading your dog. You may be a coach or teacher leading a bunch of kids. You may be a manager or entrepreneur leading a team of people. You may be a speaker or writer with people that follow what you say. No matter what, there are people looking up to you.
What happens when, with all of your good intentions of helping people, you finally fall apart? What happens to all these people you care about so much? Who will help them?
If you are not there to give, to help, to lead, then all those counting on you are suddenly on their own, fending for themselves.
Wouldn’t it be better if you took care of yourself, doing what you HUMANLY can do for those you care about but setting realistic and healthy boundaries so that you can keep doing what you do best?
It would. You know it would. Start making yourself a first priority right now.
Part 2 tomorrow! Until then, have you ever felt seriously threadbare? What did you do to help yourself? How did you reclaim your personal power?
Flow Method Action to Implement:
Say "no" to three things this week, and in the time that you would have used for doing those things, do things that are a priority for you or your business instead. Make a note to yourself of how you feel. Do you feel less ovewhelmed simply in the act of saying "no?" Is saying "no" overwhelming at first?