Do you often notice that you’re settling for scraps or getting the ‘shorter end of the stick’ because you want to take care of everyone else?
Whether you are a mom who gives all of your time and energy to your family or a businesswoman with a burning passion to serve others, it’s often tough for women to feel entitled to be kinder and more generous with themselves.
I learned the lesson of the importance of self-care from hard-earned experience.
For years I watched my Nana struggle with her own personal boundaries. From the time that I was a young girl, Nana was my biggest role model. I absolutely adored her and we had such a close and loving relationship until the day she passed away in my arms at 97 years old. I spent a large majority of my time with my Nana. She did everything for everyone, and was usually so hurt and upset because nobody appreciated all her efforts. That was her way of showing love, doing things for everybody, but she was misunderstood by some and considered a martyr. When I was growing up, I watched Nana help my father run the family business. She was the secretary and the office was in her home, so it seemed like she was always working. When she couldn’t sleep at night, she’d wrap herself up in her bathrobe and steal her way into the office to write a letter to a tenant, do some bookkeeping or file away papers. During the day she always had a pot of homemade soup simmering on the stovetop, cookies, candy, preserves or a cake or pie in the oven, making something for all her special someones. She was always on the go, doing something. A pillar of her church and community, she spent her evenings and weekends getting ready for the huge annual church bazaar. She had her own table every year and she would crochet, knit, sew, do crafts and bake and anything else to sell her handmade and homemade goodies to donate all her profits to the needy.Nana never quite knew when to say “No” to anyone. As a result she was always doing things for everyone else and fell down to the bottom of her own list.
In her own words, she would describe herself as a bit of a ‘soft touch’. She never quite knew when to stop giving of herself to others. And people would often take advantage of her talents, time and kindness. It wasn’t until she was in her 80’s when she began to learn how to set boundaries to be more self-preserving. From the time that I was a young girl, Nana was my biggest role model. I absolutely adored her and we had such a close and loving relationship until the day she passed away.
We shared a remarkable connection and for over 15 years I was blessed to have been able to work side by side with her as my partner running the family real estate business. Managing the needs of 110 families and commercial tenants in 3 buildings in Manhattan’s, Washington Heights area of New York was no piece of cake.
Years ago when I was a child I used to enjoy spending Wednesday nights with my Nana and Grandpa. It was such a special time for me and I adored being with both of them.
In the mornings, Nana would make breakfast for Grandpa and I. Our meal usually consisted of eggs, toast, juice and milk. Typically there would be one piece of toast that was darker or a bit more burnt than the rest. My Nana always used to give Grandpa and I the ‘good’ pieces and she took the burnt one and I remember watching her stand by the kitchen sink and scrape the burnt part off of her toast. Occasionally she would just take a bite out of the toast without scraping it.
I remember thinking as a child that what Nana was doing seemed kind of odd to me. I didn’t understand it and I wondered why she did it. In later years, I got a chance to understand her better and I was able to put the pieces together. I realized that this ritual was a pattern of hers and it was something that gave her a sense of identity and pride. In Nana’s day, that was how women gained their sense of significance in the world; by taking care of others, sacrificing their needs for the good of the family and by being everything to everyone. From my personal observations, I have seen that thinking leads to resentment and self abuse and feelings of always being deprived.
I see that thinking in so many of my new clients. For the most part, women have been conditioned to think of themselves as second best. We’re juggling so many balls in the air at the same time and it gets really hard sometimes. We often sacrifice so much of ourselves for our families, our parents, our career and our friends, rarely do we stop to check in with ourselves to find out what we need. That’s become the job of food in our lives. We often eat to fulfill the needs that we are afraid to admit to ourselves.
I’d like to offer you a little challenge. The next time that you have the impulse to take something that is of lesser value than you give to others, ask yourself, “Why?” What would happen if I didn’t give in to this belief? What would happen if I just waited to get what I wanted instead of settling for what’s less than the best?
What do you really want?
I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts. Have you been doing the burnt toast thing?