I find it difficult to put myself first.
Sian is a 42-year-old mother of two children under the age of 5 and also the vice president of a well-known global healthcare brand. She came to see me after her doctor had prescribed her antidepressants. Sian disagreed with her diagnosis. "I'm not depressed; I'm exhausted," she said. Sian told me about the challenges of her role at work combined with raising a young family. "I have no time for me," Sian said. "The only way I can get my haircut is to book a group appointment with my kids' hairdresser." My first task as Sian's coach was clear: to help Sian get a proper haircut!
Unhealthy sacrifice forces you to leave yourself out of your own life. You think something is missing in your life, and it is. What is missing is you. The real you. Every day you fill out your to-do list, and you are nowhere to be found on your own list. You make no space for you, no provision for you and no time for you. Be clear that this is you doing this to yourself. When you catch yourself saying, "I never have time to do what I want to do," what you are really saying is, "I don't take time for my needs." In truth, you are depriving yourself. Therefore, you are the solution.
Letting Go Exercise: "If I had but two loaves of bread, I would sell one and buy hyacinths, for they would feed my soul," said Prophet Muhammad. To heal unhealthy sacrifice, you have to be willing to let go of the habit of depriving yourself. Take a pen and paper and answer the following questions: "What feeds me?" "What inspires me?" and "What do I love?" Next, make a commitment to stop neglecting yourself and to treat yourself better. Everyone will benefit from you doing this. Life always gets better when you treat yourself better.
I feel happy and fulfilled in my life.
I had been coaching Emma, a 38-year-old lawyer, for nine months when she was offered a promotion to the board of her firm. This was the first time in the long history of this firm that a woman had been offered such a position. "I'm so happy, but I've decided not to accept," Emma told me. When I asked her why not, she told me, "I'm afraid the position will demand too much self-sacrifice." I agreed with her. And I told her that, "So long as it's healthy sacrifice rather than unhealthy sacrifice, you have nothing to fear."
The next level of success and happiness in your life, your work and your relationships does require sacrifice. Specifically, it requires you to sacrifice unhealthy sacrifice. In other words, you have to learn the difference between giving yourself away and giving more of yourself. You give yourself away when you are not true to yourself, when you play a role, when you don't ask for what you want, when you don't prioritize properly and when you deprive yourself, for example. Remember: Whatever you try to achieve with unhealthy sacrifice can be achieved without it.
Letting Go Exercise: Success and happiness require you to let go of your unworthiness, to let go of your wounds, to let go of your defenses, to let go of your story and to let go of your ego. The more you let go, the more you inhabit your authentic, unconditioned self again. And now you are more present, more connected, more open and more able to give yourself without giving yourself away. The more grounded and centered you are in the truth of who you are, the better you understand that to give yourself simply means to be yourself, and in "being" there is never any loss.
Ready to say yes to a more beautiful life? Take Dr. Robert Holden's Sacrifice Test to identify the key reasons behind the sacrifices you're making in your relationships.
Robert Holden, PhD, and his innovative work on happiness and well-being have been featured on The Oprah Show and Good Morning America and also in two major BBC documentaries, The Happiness Formula and How to Be Happy, shown to more than 30 million TV viewers worldwide. He is the author of the best-selling books Happiness NOW!, Shift Happens! and Success Intelligence. His latest book, Be Happy, is published by Hay House. Robert lives in London with his wife and daughter.
Keep Reading More from Dr. Holden: