Balancing Self-Care with Helping Others

self-care with helping others

Today’s big idea is exploring how to balance self-care with helping others. I think this is an area where a lot of us get confused, particularly when you hear things like put on your oxygen mask first. And you can’t give from an empty cup, which is something I’ve said many times, including on this podcast. 

And you know, I’ve re-thought this. 

I think that yes, if you’re depleted you’ve don’t have a lot to offer others. 

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But I also know that being of service creates energy

(I talked about the energy lift that helping others provides in Monday’s episode, episode number 622 so if you missed that, give it a listen too.)

Helping someone else gets you out of your own head and thoughts and dramas and puts your focus on showing up and trying to help. It gets you out of that line of thinking that says, “what difference does it make? I’m only one person,” which is majorly disempowering and depressing, frankly. And it gets you into action. 

I know how common it is for people–primarily women–to get stuck in a caregiving role where we’re continually putting other people first. But saying that you have to put on your oxygen mask first can be taken too far. To imply that you have to have your shit perfectly together in order to be helpful to someone else. When it’s your struggles, your imperfections, and the places where you are still healing that inform and fuel your ability to help others. 

There’s a phrase in the coaching world, your mess is your message

If you haven’t had your own struggles, how could you possibly know what someone who is struggling needs? You can’t. 

So the direction of caregiving we’ve been taught is, give to yourself first, and give to others second. When in reality, caretaking is multi-directional. You want to be giving to yourself in the midst of giving to others too. Because you deserve the same helping energy that you offer to others. AND, there’s another direction that you want help to be flowing, and that’s from others toward you. So there are three directions of service that you want moving. Maybe not all at once, but in a regular rotation. From you toward other people, from other people toward you, and from you to yourself. 

In other words: Being of service doesn’t equate to being selfless. 

 I’ve been talking about how you want care to be flowing from you toward yourself and from you toward others, as well as from others toward you. 

Here’s an analogy that might help you visualize what I’m talking about:

Imagine that you are making a smoothie. You’ve got ice and frozen fruit at the bottom. Some form of liquid in the middle. And your protein powder and whatever other kind of goodies you add, like flax seeds, are floating at the top. 

If you’re only giving to others, it’s like when the blender is only blending the stuff that’s on the very bottom of the blender and the stuff at the middle and top isn’t moving. So you try to right that by giving back to yourself. And when you add in something to help others, the middle layer starts getting incorporated in to the smoothie, but the stuff on top is still floating there. It’s when you are open to receiving some helpful energy BACK from other people, that the vortex in your smoothie forms and the top, middle, and bottom all start circulating and get blended into a delicious concoction. 

There’s a cohesion to your efforts to be of service that doesn’t happen when you try to keep it very linear. You help yourself and then you help someone else and you don’t allow help to come back my way. 

Daily Tiny Assignment

Your tiny assignment then is to give some thought to how much you do things that are of service to others, and how often you do stuff that’s just for you, and how often you receive help from others. 

What category are you strongest in? Are you killing it with self-care but maybe not so great at being of service to others? Or are you super involved in helping others out but not so good at receiving help from others? 

Or are you not doing much to take care of yourself? Just think of these three categories and assess–self care, care for others, and help FROM others. And see where maybe you could stand to place a little more focus so that your smoothie starts spinning at the top, the middle, and the bottom and you create a tasty blend that’s nourishing AND delicious. 

That’s it for this week, I hope you have a great weekend! 


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