Late Monday night, I arrived home for good after traveling to and from my sister’s place (four hours away) over the last four weeks. I didn’t intend to be gone so long, nor did I intend to take that much time off of work. Though, I was able to squeeze in a few days here and a few hours in between, my original plan was to spend just two weeks with my sis and the rest of the time working on my growing business.
Instead, between a (fantastic) design festival I attended in Cleveland, OH and an adorable baby boy who decided start the process of birth just as I summited the pass on my way home, my schedule has been less than predictable.
Our family has always been extremely poised and willing during any major life event. I remember growing up having family friend’s over who were going through a divorce or struggling with a miscarriage. Or spending time playing games with extended family while they grieved the loss of their daughter.
When I found out my sister was pregnant with our family’s first baby (she always does everything first even though she’s my younger sister), I knew I would do anything for her. I already feel that way about her in general but adding a baby to that equation means I feel it that much more.
Spending two weeks with her postpartum was an easy and emphatic, “YES.”
But it wasn’t easy. And it was even harder to spend the better part of four weeks away from my husband, my life, and the business I care so much about.
In times of need, big or small, it’s easy to loose yourself in someone else’s needs. It’s easy to feel guilty for taking time for yourself, tell them when you need it, and actually follow through without cutting it short or cutting it out entirely.
All but a few days, I would wake up and walk to my favorite coffee shop—something I enjoy doing as a part of my morning routine at home. For an hour or two I would hold space for myself. I would listen a podcast or two, observe the houses nestled in the neighborhood, or call a friend from across the country to enjoy the company.
The other day I (finally) got a chance to participate in the #omhg chat on Twitter for the first time. The topic was how to give good and keep ourselves from burning out or becoming embittered.
One thing I shared was that I truly believe generosity starts with you, and I don’t mean that in the traditional sense of “be the change you want to see in the world” (though these concepts are not mutually exclusive). Generosity starts with you in that you must be 100% in order to give 100%. You must put yourself first, no matter how counter intuitive.
If we always put others first without any regard for ourselves, we will run ourselves ragged. Lisa Jacobs shared, “like on the airplane, you have to make sure you’ve put on your own air mask before you can help others.”
How much are we able to do for anyone if we are always sick, hurting, exhausted, and unhappy? Taking care of you teaches others how to respect you and empowers others to care for themselves. It is not selfish, it is strategic.
When you send email at 3am; respond to client fires immediately and often without established boundaries; sacrifice sleep, food, exercise, relationships and your general wellness, you are setting up expectations regardless of what your words have stated.
We must show our children, friends, and clients how we want to be treated and empower them as a strong example of self-respect.
Though being there for my sister was much more than I anticipated, I still made time for me. In taking care of my needs, even in a small ways, I was able to be that much more present, helpful, and gracious with her.
Are you taking 100% care of yourself so you can give to others?
I am designing a course on developing meaningful relationships for the indie designer called Cultivate. One of the principles I am fleshing out is this concept of putting yourself first so that you may better serve others. I invite your thoughtful comments and welcome the opportunity for dialogue.
Meet Erin Anacker | Betwixt
Erin Anacker is a People Enthusiast at Betwixt—a business helping women in design connect with their people. When she’s not thinking too hard, you’ll find her out on the trail, drinking a good latte, or boisterously enjoying the company of friends.