“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
~Audre Lorde

Somewhere along the line, many of us have learned to put ourselves close to last, if not last. This can be especially true for women and people of color, who have often been conditioned to prioritize others’ needs, care for others, and minimize their own needs and desires.

But there is a reason the flight attendant tells us to put our own oxygen mask on first. If we can’t breathe, we can’t think, and if we can’t think, we can’t help anyone else. If we don’t care for ourselves, we have nothing left to give.

I coach my clients toward carving out space and time for their self-care – for rest, relaxation, exercise and all the “activities” we associate with self-care. I also coach them toward the less obvious approaches to self-care – self-reflection, sitting still, joy, and support from others.

All these are also acts of caring for ourselves, and all of these are also essential.

As many of you know, I have faced health challenges in the past year, and as some of you know, I grew up in a way that definitely taught me that slowing down or not doing what had to be done was inexcusable. But my reality has been that I often didn’t have the energy to do what had to be done. I needed time sitting still on the couch. My brain and body couldn’t keep up.

I had to learn to carve that space for myself, and I had to rewire my brain to see that as an act of self-preservation. As necessary and okay. I’ve done my best to also gratefully model this new approach for our clients, and I’m happy to share that many of you called me out on going too quickly or doing too much when and if you thought I was.

I’ve come to know that self-care is one of the most important leadership skills. If we aren’t strong enough, we can’t lead, and if we drive ourselves into the ground, those who work with and for us will think they need to do the same.

Caring for ourselves is also one of the most self-loving things we can do. It fuels us to keep going, to do what needs to be done, and to show up kindly and fully for others.

It is not self-indulgence. It is a necessity.

How have you learned to care for yourself?
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If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

To learn to put yourself first, contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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