It took me ages to realise how vital it is to find time for myself. Part of the delay was that I didn’t think I needed it until I was approaching my forties.
My parents were big on family outings, parties, social gatherings and talking animatedly over dinner. Owners of a busy
guest house in central Windsor, there was a constant stream of people visiting us from
around the globe, many of whom became repeat guests and in time family friends.
My folks were the type that dragged us out of our rooms to be sociable with whoever they had calling round. If I didn’t much feel like being an active part of their entertaining plans, tough. I was expected to drop what I was doing, smile and make polite conversation, or I could expect short shrift once our visitors had gone.
My university years passed in a blur of parties, part time work, frantic last-minute revision and hand in deadlines. Graduating in the field of education, it wasn’t long before my days were taken up lecturing a group of lively college students.
I used to think of myself as an
extravert because I love being in the company of others and would gladly stand in front of a room full of people to teach. But after a while I noticed that I felt unsettled and energetically scattered after being with other people for too long. Being around people that I didn’t feel connected to left me second guessing myself and wondering if I should be doing
something different. I’d feel the need to retreat into my own space to find myself and re-group.
In my thirties I realised that although I have the capacity to be centre stage, it can take a lot out of me. I began to seek in depth conversation with one or two people that I was drawn to in a crowded room, rather than taking on the whole party. I realised I could be more selective about who I spend time with and that I didn’t need to entertain anyone and everyone; no one was assessing me on my hospitality skills (or if they were, I didn’t have to care!) A light went on when I learnt that the definition of an introvert is someone who replenishes their energy by being in their own company.
After years of thinking I was an
extravert (someone who gets their energy by being in the company of others), this was a life-changing insight. I noticed that I was irritated by people who pressured me into doing what I didn’t really want to do. It’s because I felt I had to oblige. I would muster the energy to be sociable (when I longed to be recharging myself in solitude). I’d put a smile on my face to avoid being
perceived as miserable. This is how my upbringing had trained me to respond to invitations and I hadn’t had the wherewithal to challenge it yet.
I ended up in a vicious cycle; needing to recharge, but not honouring that because someone had invited me to something I felt I couldn’t say no to. I would go out when I didn’t really want to and either drink or eat too much to give me the energy I needed when I should have been resting. I would throw myself into socialising and put my focus outside of myself. I would head home having had a ‘great night’, but not having given myself the time that I had needed. I would then struggle to catch up with myself for a few days. I’d put in late nights
propped up with chocolate and caffeine because I had not had the time to rest and consolidate.
Before long I was feeling bad about my weight and trying to find time to slot in exercise to combat it. I thought I was in control of what I said yes and no to but, I felt deep shame for desiring to carve time out for myself. I had been told that this was lazy, selfish and rude. Instead, I adopted the socially acceptable mantras ‘I have no time’ and ‘I’m too busy to find time for
It is said that we find time for what is important, but often we don’t. More
accurately, we make time for what other people find important and we are too
programmed by our need to please others to say no. It puts us outside of ourselves and keeps us distant from our heart’s desires and how we long to spend our days.
In my late thirties and suffering from overwhelm, exhaustion and adrenal fatigue, these words from a coach changed my life;
Take exquisite care of yourself; self-care is a necessity, not a luxury.
Finding time for yourself is a skill that may take a while to perfect. We find time for ourselves when we remember that ‘no thank you’ is a valid response. We create self-care opportunities when we become an unequivocal yes to ourselves. We ring-fence ‘me time’ when we realise that we cannot give joyfully to others until we first refuel.
It’s the reward that comes from the discipline of scheduling blank space in our diary that is non-negotiable. For the ‘I’m too busy’ addicts amongst us, we need to start small. Dare yourself to say no to just one request that doesn’t fill your heart with joy and fill it instead with absolutely nothing except time for you. It might make you sweat a little to think about doing something so radical but go on; I dare you!
Pretty soon you will find yourself with the odd day completely to yourself and I can’t tell you how good that feels 😉
You’ve got this x