As many of you know, I love my chickens…or chooks, as we call them here in Australia! 🐔
A few weeks ago Chummy, a magnificently plumed large grey chook, went clucky. She wouldn’t leave the laying box, sitting on all the eggs trying to hatch them. The only problem with Chummy’s maternal urge was the absence of a rooster, so instead I went to the local farm stock supplier and came home with four chirping, one-day old chicks for her to raise. 🐥🐥🐥🐥
I moved Chummy into a secure area and introduced the new little chickadees at night once she was sleepy. Even though these little chicks had never seen their own mother or any other adult hen, they immediately went to her and burrowed in under her feathers and settled for the night … so very cute, as you can see!!
Next morning, Chummy (now known as Chummy Mummy, of course!) came into the garden with her chickadees and spent the day showing them how to scratch in the soil to find little bugs and and how to peck at the small treats I gave them. Every now and then she’d sit down and let the little ones burrow under her again for a short nap before continuing their busy chicken day. 😊
Chummy’s natural maternal instinct meant that when I’d bring little treats for them all…finely chopped veggies or little bits of raw meat…she’d make her special “food’s here” clucking noise, pick up the treats in her beak and place them in front of the chicks, not once eating any for herself! Even when the chicks had lost interest in the treats and were pecking a little further off she didn’t eat anything, leaving it for them.
This continued for a couple of weeks with Chummy putting the chicks well-being first. After a while she started sharing the treats with them always making sure they ate first. Then in the fifth week, she decided they were big enough to fend for themselves and she rejoined the big chooks, leaving the chickadees to free-range on their own, which they were happy to do.
Watching Chummy with her chicks, made me aware of how strong the instinct is in many of us to put the needs of others we care about above our own.
Self-love = Selfish is a social story
Many of the people we work with who want to feel more self worth and to love themselves more, say they can’t step away from the caring or helping role.
Unlike Chummy, they are caught in an old story of helping others and denying themselves even when the other person’s survival or well-being isn’t actually at stake. They haven’t recognised the difference between a need and a want, so they feel they have to respond to every request, and they don’t say no because they don’t want to see themselves, or be seen by others, as selfish.
They’ve decided, based on social stories and teachings, that putting their own needs first is selfish and so they’ll run themselves into the ground or give away their joy and peace of mind so that another person has what they want. While we most often see women grappling with this, they’re not the only ones because men can experience their own version of a social story about needing to provide for their families.
What do you want to teach others about self-love?
Equating self-love with selfishness is a powerful social story that tells us that doing anything for ourselves or putting our needs before another’s is selfish. But is it really?
When you deny your well being or your joy so another can have what they want, what are you teaching them? They’re learning that…
- it’s not ok to love yourself enough to take care of yourself and they should do the same.
- it’s a good thing to sacrifice your joy for others and so should they.
- it’s better not to express their worthiness and self-love by doing things that bring them joy because everyone else’s needs are much more important.
The pressure of this social story that self love is selfish which is constantly reinforced when you deny yourself, means they think they have no choice but to deny themselves as well.
Instead, wouldn’t you rather that they learnt that …
- while it’s wonderful to help another person in need, it’s equally wonderful to love and give to yourself
- when you give to you first, you have so much more love, joy and energy to share with others because you’re not feeling depleted or even slightly resentful because there’s no time or space for you?
- self-love and self-worth are just empty concepts, unless they enact and express them by doing things that nurture them bringing them joy and peace?
If you’re answering “yes” as you read this, then you can show them how, by loving yourself enough to give to you first.
This doesn’t mean you stop caring for your children or elderly parents, or that you ignore a friend going through a tough time who needs a comforting chat and a hug!
But it does mean that shift the balance, so that you give to you too rather than always putting everybody else’s needs before your own!
Simple questions to help you choose self-love
These simple questions have helped me to shift from putting my needs at the bottom of my list of priorities to making sure that I’m taking care of myself in the midst of a busy life with lots of competing demands.
In the past, I’d always thought that I’d have time to express my self-love with a walk in the sun, or spending time in the garden once I’d done everything for everyone else. But guess what…there was never anytime left over for me! It was Energy reflecting Energy…the less I was prepared to give to myself, the less time there was for me to give to myself. I was creating my own proof for my version of this social story about how little time I had for me because everyone else’s needs came first!
Funnily enough, since I’ve started using these questions, I’m just as busy as before but I’ve found more time for me…more time for a walk to break up my day at the desk, more time exploring my new love of water colour painting. It all came down to a decision to make choices based on my love for self.
So next time a family member or friend wants you to do something for them (or you think you should be doing something for someone even if they haven’t asked!), pause and ask yourself these questions before deciding what to do …
- Is there a real physical or emotional risk to them if I say no?
- Are they capable of doing this for themselves?
- If I keep doing it for them am I stopping them from learning and growing?
- Are they asking me because they doubt themselves and if I agree am I unintentionally reinforcing their self doubt?
- Is this an opportunity for them to realise that they’re stronger/smarter/more able than they’ve given themselves credit for?
- Am I the only one who can do this? Can I show them how? Can I refer them to someone else to help them?
- Does it have to be done according to their timeframe or is it something I’d be happy to do at a time that also worked for me?
For me, the only one that would have me drop anything without hesitation is if the answer to the first question is yes…otherwise I’ll get creative and have a compassionate conversation with the other person to either say no or to help them see why they don’t need me or to negotiate the when and the how so that it also works for me.
And of course the first compassionate conversation I have is with myself, so that I can make a choice based on self-love rather than denying myself.
It’s an ongoing practice that brings more grace, ease and joy into my life so why not give it a try and let me know how you go!
Lots of love
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