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Warning: Taking Care of Yourself Can Be Hazardous to Your Dysfunctional Relationships

How’s that for a title. As I learn how to really take care of myself, I’m finding some things don’t fit anymore, and the process of moving those things out of my life has consequences. Here’s what I’m learning:

Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean you disregard other people, it just means you regard yourself too. Many of us, men and women, spend so much time meeting the needs of family, job, friends and others that we have no idea what we want. I’m finding the most difficult question for EVERY client I see is: “What do you want?” This is because we are not regarding our own needs properly. Taking care of yourself means “putting on your oxygen mask before attempting to save everyone on the plane.” If you’ve ever flown you heard the instructions “In the event of a change in aircraft pressure, oxygen masks will drop down. Place the masks securely over your nose and mouth and breathe deeply. Even if the bag doesn’t inflate, oxygen is flowing.” (I pay attention when the flight attendants are giving that talk). Here’s the rest of it: “If you are flying with a child or someone who is acting like one, make sure your mask is securely in place before assisting them.” Many of us are hyperventilating as we attempt to meet the needs of others. It is the equivalent of helping everyone on the plane breathe while you suffocate. Taking care of yourself may cause those who selfishly consider themselves first in your life to stomp off in frustration. Taking care of yourself will also be uncomfortable at first for those who love you. Give your family and friends time to adjust to a new pattern in your behavior.

Taking care of yourself means you stop seeking relationships where you can slouch in peace. The tall girl in the class picture often developed a slouch because she had to be on the top row with the boys. It made her uncomfortable because she wasn’t in the place with the other girls. The smart girl was uncomfortable because her brain set her apart. The extraordinarily pretty girl was uncomfortable because her looks set her apart. Do you see where this is going? In all these cases we learn to slouch, dumb down or minimize what is unique about us so that others are comfortable. Taking care of yourself REQUIRES that you own your height, your smarts and yes, even your good looks, no matter how uncomfortable it makes others feel. Owning what makes you strong and unique means that your weak friends may have a problem with you but forgive them (see previous blog). The weak friends are the friends that love you if you don't get too great, shine too brightly, or stray too far past the boundaries of average. Ending your slouch will help you find your tribe; you will recognize them by their authenticity and their willingness to hold you accountable for what is great in you, not what is comfortable.

Taking care of yourself means putting the right people in the right places. In our workshop, Re-Writing The Script, I talk about the three sets of people in your life: those in your sphere of influence, those who are familiar with your shell, and those who know your substance. You may never meet some of the people in your sphere of influence, but they know you by your actions, books, blogs or your influence on other people. Those familiar with your shell know about you: where you work, what you do and where you live, for example. However those who know your substance know you. They don’t just know what you do, they know why. Sometimes we have mislabeled our friendships: we have people who only know our shells in the place of substance. They can do harm to your insides because they don’t belong in that intimate space. Other times we have people as casual friends who have insight into us, but we are afraid to bring them close because of past experiences. Finally, especially if we are susceptible to flattery because of our own insecurities, we may have people from our sphere of influence in the place of substance. These people aren’t in your life for friendship, but as part of your assignment. You must figure out where they belong and take care of yourself by putting them in their right place.

Every year, it is my tradition to ask God for a scripture to guide my year. I learned an important lesson a few years ago when His answer to me was the following scripture:

There is another evil I have seen under the sun. Kings and rulers make a grave mistake 6 when they give great authority to foolish people and low positions to people of proven worth. 7 I have even seen servants riding horseback like princes—and princes walking like servants!

Ecclesiastes 10:5-7, NLT

As you take care of yourself, you may see a change in some relationships you believed to be important. Remember that taking care of yourself is not just about eating right and exercising; it is about ending painful patterns of behavior in our lives.

Michele Aikens is a certified life coach and business consultant. To connect with her click here

There is a price for taking care of yourself.

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