Me First

Wild Geese

“You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.”

– Mary Oliver

This month’s story is inspired by many of my women clients who have had a major challenge in putting themselves first. This has come at a cost of not having enough time for self care and manifesting their life’s dreams. We’ve had to uncover the layers that were behind putting others first.  

One of the women whom I’d been coaching confessed that she’s a people pleaser and she gets a lot of gratification from helping others. She also shared that she really doesn’t want to help at times, because she’s tired or because there’s just too much on her plate. She reached a point where she needed to assert herself and let some people in her life know what was really happening for her. After several coaching sessions, she came up with a more empowering inner talk that sounded like this “I’m still a good person even if I say no to xyz”. She then committed to saying no once a day and is building up her muscle to get more familiar with this new way of being. 

Another client has had to put her life’s dreams on the backburner because she felt a weight to say yes to her family’s requests to babysit, even though they had let her know that she could say no.  It wasn’t possible for her to do so for a while and over some time, she realized she needed to because she was paying a rather big price of not staying true to what she really wanted to manifest. What helped her move forward was this inquiry “what would my life look like if I put myself first?”

Some things that I’ve learned along the way that can be quite supportive are:

  1. Start with yourself – be honest with what you want to say yes to and what you don’t have space for
  2. Ask yourself what would you be saying yes to when you say your no
  3. Look at what’s on your plate and assess if you need to have conversations with those whom you may have commitments to that you might want to have a conversation with to either renegotiate or to say no to
  4. Notice in the moment what’s happening for you as you have your conversation
  5. Reflect after to see what worked and what you might want to do differently the next go around  
  6. Celebrate that you had the courage to ask for what you need 
  7. Repeat and rinse

It’s not easy to say no especially to those whom we care about. I know this firsthand. I’ve learned to be kind to myself as I notice some moments in which I have not been able to say no, even when I really had wanted to. I’ve also learned to celebrate the powerful moments in which I’ve successfully stood up tall and asserted myself. It’s a journey of understanding deeply the many parts of me that long to be seen and heard.

I especially appreciate Kristen Neff’s latest work on fierce self compassion. It’s a beautiful and powerful way to honor both energies of being fierce and having tender self-compassion as we navigate our inner and outer worlds.  Women, especially, must reclaim this fierceness so that we can show up for ourselves to create a more fulfilling and sustainable life.  

“At the most basic level, self-compassion simply requires being a good friend to ourselves.”

― Kristin Neff,

Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Their Power, and Thrive