Remembering this one fact about the heart reframed my entire approach to service and self-care. For most of my life, I put the needs of other people first. Who I was and what I did was based on what was needed from whoever was needing it: parents, teachers, bosses, friends, family, clients.
I’m drawn to service. As a lawyer, everything was about responding to the demands of partners and clients. As a real estate broker I would be on call for whatever my clients needed, whenever they needed it.
The Dominant Narrative
The values modeled for me was that a good mother puts her children first. And even though I don’t have children, that same principle holds.
A good woman puts her family first. A good aunt drops everything to babysit her nieces and nephews. A good friend puts her friends first.
To serve others means to put their needs first.
I believed that because it’s the dominant narrative.
Old Belief: Self Care is Selfish
Like many women, I was told that it was selfish to think of myself first.
I would feel tremendous guilt if I took an afternoon off and didn’t check email. I would wake up in reaction mode, immediately checking my emails to see what I might have missed. What if someone needed me and I didn’t respond fast enough?
Everything changed for me when a mentor reminded me of something very basic. (No, not the oxygen mask thing.)
A Lesson From the Heart
Do you know to which organ the heart pumps blood first?
The heart pumps blood to itself first. Before it sends the oxygen rich blood to the other organs, the heart pumps blood to itself.
Your heart muscle needs its own supply of blood because, like the rest of your body, it needs oxygen and other nutrients to stay healthy.
If the heart doesn’t keep itself healthy, the entire system suffers.
So simple. So obvious. So often ignored.
New Belief: Self-Care is Self-Preserving
This reframed everything for me. It opened the space I needed to say yes to myself first.
In any relationship, with clients, family, friends, romantic partners, you are the heart. Serving your needs first is not selfish, it’s self-preserving. And self-preserving is necessary to serve others.
If you don’t take care of yourself first, the whole system will shut down.
Who will serve your family, your clients, your friends if you aren’t around to do it?
Say yes to yourself so you can continue to say yes to others.
Serve yourself first and you will expand your capacity to serve others at a higher level.
Love yourself first, so you have more love for others.
Self-love and self-care are not selfish indulgences. They are a necessary foundation to serving others.
Serve yourself first.