Everyone has a habit they are trying to "make stick" at work. For example, you want to stop apologizing for colleagues for things that aren't your fault. You want to get to inbox zero. You want to take your lunch hour every day. And inevitably, you don't do it.
I want to start by saying that I personally hate habits. I am way too much of a Rebel (according to my Rubin Tendency -- yes, I did a quiz to figure out that I'm a "rebel"). I love not doing what I'm "supposed to" and seeing if I can "get away with it." I always want you to question whether you really need to build a new habit, or whether you just feel like you "should."
With that said, my favorite way to make a habit stick is to make it as easy as possible to follow through. Our ego is often tempted by making a habit hard to master, so we can feel like we conquered a big obstacle when we finally figure it out.
But how about setting up your life so that following through with this habit is easy? What systems can you set up to make it easy to get to inbox zero? To make it easy to take a full lunch hour?
I challenge you to brainstorm for 10 minutes, right now, about how to set up your life to easily make the new habit a reality. Put alarms on your phone. Create a "busy" time on your calendar. Get your spouse, friends, and colleagues on board. Set everything up the night before. Etc. etc.
There are no dragons to slay. There is no hill to climb. This isn't a grand tale of conquering your demons. This new habit is easy for you, and you will set up your life so it can glide right in.
Many of the women I talk to who feel powerless at work are actually giving away their power willingly. We often think that we "can't" ask for what we want at work. We believe we'll be denied and fired. But this fear is exactly what keeps us from getting what we want. After all, if you don't try to go for it, you will surely fail.
Instead, you can reclaim your power by actually trying to get what you want from your job (and yes, this works even if your employer is yourself). This is integral for you to feel your sense of personal power.
Ask yourself, what am I yearning for more than anything at my job? Get clear on the one thing that would make you happier now.
There are many ways to get what you want: getting a raise, asking for more time off (even if unpaid), volunteering for an additional project to build your skills, or even (gasp!) quitting.
But for now, I want to leave you with a simple step: imagine what it would feel like to have your wish to be granted. Imagine yourself getting a call saying your wish was approved. Where are you? What are you wearing? Who is with you?
For example, before I quit my last job, I imagined the relief I would feel after I quit. I imagined myself telling my husband I quit, and the hug he would give me. I imagined him telling him he's proud of me.
The first step to reclaiming your power at work is simply to remember that you are a powerful woman with powerful desires, and that those desires can be granted. Your imagination and visioning is integral to that reclaiming.
Before you create your strategy for asking for what you want, remember to sit with your desire, and to imagine the outcome.
I realized recently how much of a habit I have in making myself smaller in order not to seem like a "show off." During days when I look really good, I try to "mess up" part of my look since I can't handle it. I slump my shoulders. I have a confused look on my face in public so that I don't look like "I have it all together." (WTF?)
Not every woman does what I do to seem "less good at things," but many of us take actions to self-sabotage our success.
For women, looking really good physically, or being really successful professionally, can feel dangerous. In the past, I have wanted not to call attention to myself because I associated "looking good" and "doing good" with others feeling resentful and angry at me. I associated it with danger.
Do you relate?
This month, my goal is to undo some of this self-sabotage, and I'm starting with how I show up in public. When I go out in the city, I want to walk around with my head held high. I want to look assured and like "I know where I'm going." Because I do know where I'm going. So it's time to look like it.
I'll let you know how it goes.
I hear it all the time. “I’m working on my own business. Once I launch it, I’ll finally do meaningful work.” “Once I leave my day job, I’ll finally be doing meaningful work.” “Once I move to a different city, my job will finally be meaningful.”
I believe you can start doing meaningful work right now. Before you officially leave your job. Before you sell all your belongings and buy a one-way ticket to Bangkok. Before you even figure out what your “passions” are.
We can all think of one thing we enjoy doing to serve our community, whether it's cooking, event planning, general problem-solving, or even listening. One of my friends helps people revamp her resumes for fun (and profit). Another friend loves meal-planning and grocery shopping. My husband helps people plan their weddings.
Today I ask you:
What activities give you purpose, and make you feel like your life has meaning?
Which of these activities can you start doing today?
How can this be your meaningful work?
I urge you to start riiiiiight now. Dooooo it.
"I can't stop second-guessing myself." This is a sentence my clients can't stop saying to me.
Many of my clients suffer from "on the other hand" syndrome. When trying to make a decision, like whether to confront a friend for being flaky, they tell me, "on the one hand, I feel like I should talk to her. But on the other hand, I feel scared. And on the other hand, isn't it good to confront people? But then again, why make a big deal out of it?" And that's just the beginning of their "on the other hand" internal discussion.
How can we shorten our time going through "on the other hand" syndrome, and spend more time actually making decisions?
One option is to get out of your head, and instead feel the options in your body:
Do the same for the other option, and any other options that come up.
Don't think of making the decision. Simply do the body work and see what comes up. You may be surprised by what your body tells you.
If you're neurotic like me, interrupting your thoughts and going into the body can be immensely illuminating.
Try this and let me know in the comments what this brings up for you.
Do you ever feel needy, selfish, or silly for trying to take care of yourself? Does it feel indulgent or annoying to speak up for yourself and insist on doing what you need to do to feel comfortable, to feel loved, or to feel validated?
Here are some tips on how to handle these feelings so you can meet your needs with less guilt and shame:
1. Feel your feelings.
If you're feeling uncomfortable before going to the gym to take care of your body, or before leaving your child with a babysitter so you can have some me-time, let yourself feel your discomfort. Note 3 feelings you are feeling right now. Take a breath.
We often feel the need to ignore our feelings and just "soldier on." But it's okay to feel sad or weird when you're doing something for yourself, especially after a lifetime of not taking care of yourself. Take a minute or two to acknowledge and feel the feeling. Say "I feel annoyed that I have to go to the gym," or "I feel guilty about leaving my son with a babysitter."
2. Just state what you need, without an explanation.
It's easy to come up with a million reasons to not take care of yourself, and those reasons often involve other people. "My wife is too demanding. If I asked for some me-time, she'd be too mad, so I can't do it." "I am the breadwinner of my family. I'm not allowed to do anything except for making that $$." And so on, and so on.
Instead of explaining your situation, what would it feel like to just state what you need and drop the mike? You don't have to find a solution or tell everyone else what they should do to accommodate you. Let yourself just say "I need time to myself," or "I need relaxation." Repeat this statement as many times as you need. The articulation of the need is your only job.
3. Remember how taking care of you will help your relationships.
I have written before about how many of my clients have a hard time with self-care, because they are selfless people who love to take care of others. That's great! I am often that way too.
For me, it helps me to remember that taking care of myself actually makes my relationships better with my friends and family. Think of a friend or family member you have had who is not taking care of their emotional or physical needs -- they lash out, are passive aggressive, or just seem to not be taking care of themselves. As their friend, you worry about them; you think about them; and you're not sure how to help them. You know they just need to figure it out on their own.
Taking care of yourself is a gift not just to yourself, but to your community. When your friends and family know that you are taking care of yourself, they don't have to worry about you. They can trust you.
So if you don't want to think of self-care as a gift to yourself (yet), think about it as a gift to others.
4. Know that ultimately, other people are not in charge of meeting your needs.
Sometimes, meeting our needs means making requests of other people. For example, telling a guy you're dating, "Can you tell me how you feel about our relationship? I want clarity."
I do this all the time. I feel safe enough to tell my husband, "I need a hug!" or "Give me some compliments!" (I am addicted to compliments.) But in previous relationships, stating what I needed felt like I was being needy and demanding.
The key to not feeling needy or demanding is to remember that other people (even if you're married to them) are not actually in charge of meeting your needs.
"But May, you just said you demand your husband to give you hugs and he does it? So how is he not in charge of meeting your needs?" you may ask.
Well, my friend, guess what? Sometimes I need a hug and my husband isn't there. Other times, I need a hug and he just got home from work and wants nothing to do with me. I know at all times that just because I need something, doesn't mean my husband (or my mom, or my friends, etc.) are there to provide it.
It is my responsibility to state what I need, but not to convince a particular person to give me what I need.
For example, when I'm feeling insecure, and my husband isn't making me feel more secure, it may not be the time to tell him "why are you acting this way? I need you to give me compliments but you're falling asleep! You're so annoying!"
Instead, it's time for me to mourn his absence in that moment, and reach out to a friend I trust. If there is no one I can reach out to, it's time for me to do some inner work. If I'm insecure, for example, I sit with my journal and write things I love about myself. Or perhaps I look over notes from my friends. If I can't even do that, I just sit there and mourn my unmet need. I feel sad about the fact that I don't have validation right now.
If someone is not available to give you what you need, you have options. You can reach out to someone else, meet the need yourself, or mourn the unmet need. Shablam!
All you're in charge of is stating what you need, not making others help you.
5. Taking care of yourself emotionally is part of meeting your other goals.
If you're truly committed to being a part of a happy family, and having good relationships in your life, taking care of yourself is a MUST. If you want to leave a legacy of love of your community, self-care is a must.
Self-care is not a separate thing you "should do." It is part of meeting your other goals, like building good relationships and living in harmony with your family and friends.
Thinking of self-care as a part of your other goals can help you commit to it.
Got questions? Let me know in the comments. <3 <3
Do you find yourself being unhappy, but you don't know why, since everything "seems fine"?
Knowing your life values can help you figure out the "why" and feel fulfilled consistently.
Values are the aspects of life that you, well, value most at your core. They are different what you need right now, but are the things you value in general.
How are you supposed to figure out your values? I recommend starting by thinking of a time when you felt happy and fulfilled, and writing about it in detail. What activities were you performing? Who did you have around you? What about the experience felt most exciting?
For example, one of my happiest memories is travelling alone in Southeast Asia. I loved figuring out how to travel on my own. I loved travelling slowly and leisurely, without moving around quickly from town to town and island to island. And I loved meeting new people.
What about you? What is your experience that made you feel happy and fulfilled?
Once you write about this experience, extrapolate 10 values from this list that you notice were honored during that experience.
The values I honored during my trip include:
Pick your 5 top values. These are the things you care most about. When you live a life that honors these values, you feel fulfilled and happy.
Ask yourself: How are you currently honoring these needs in your current life? How could you honor them more through your actions?
When you are living a life that honors your most important values, your needs feel "taken care of." Understanding your values can help you feel more grounded and committed to what you're looking for in life, and less likely to get overwhelmed by it all.
I notice that when women are trying to figure out what they need when they feel "off," 2 hurdles come up:
1. Self-esteem: You may get caught up in "I hate myself! Why should I take care of myself when I'm such a bad person?"
2. A specific outcome: You really hate your job. You really, really hate your job. It's hard to see beyond this. You look at the list of emotional needs to figure out how to describe your needs and think, " I don't need to figure out an emotional need. I already know what the problem is -- my job."
Here is how to get unstuck here:
1. Take self-esteem out of it. When you see a baby crying, you know that baby needs something, whether it's a "bad" or "good" baby. It needs hugs, it needs food, it needs a diaper changed, etc. When you are interrogating what you need, take self-esteem out of it. Whether you think you're a "good" or "bad" person, what we know is that you are A person, and you have needs. Try to "snooze" on the question of your goodness or badness, and treat yourself like a baby who is crying. Ask "what does the baby need, and how can I provide it for them?"
2. Ask, "what's the most important thing about my current lack?" We know you really hate your job. We know you really hate being single. But what does make your job suck so much? When you imagine a job in which you're happier, what do you imagine? What is important about getting a different job? What is important about getting a romantic partner? Interrogate the outcome you desire, and think of what seems most magical about achieving the outcome.
Most importantly, use a word from this list to describe what you are missing.
Consider speaking about your current predicament using a word from the list of emotional needs. Instead of telling people "I hate my job and can't wait to get out." Say, "I'm really looking for an environment with more flexibility. I want this so badly." Instead of saying, "I'm so sick of being single," say, "I'm really looking for the right kind of companionship in my life."
This language signals to your community what you actually want, and gets them excited about helping you achieve it. Note that using outcome-based language (such as "I want a new job" or "I want a wife") lets others fill in their preconceived notions about jobs and wives. They may assume you simply want to make more money, or that you're simply looking for the stability of marriage. Using "needs words" stops these misconceptions about what you're looking for, not only for yourself, but for everyone around you.
I know the title of this post is a Spice Girls reference, but the situation I'd like to talk about today is when you can't figure out what you want, when you have no idea if you want to "zig a zig ah"!
As you may know if you follow my writing, I have been talking nonstop about how to assess what you need using this universal list of needs. I talk a lot about honoring your emotional needs instead of pushing them away.
However, what are you supposed to do when two needs bump up against each other and seem irreconcilable? For example, what if you are desperately yearning for self-expression, through your love of singing, but you also reeeeally care about security, in the form of $$$? Perhaps singing has not been lucrative for you financially, so how are you supposed to reconcile those two needs???
When you have two different needs that fight for your attention, it can feel less like the Spice Girls and more like Brandi and Monica fighting over their boy! (Yes, I grew up in the '90s.) These two needs are fighting over who you will choose, and you have no idea who you should listen to.
It may seem tempting to say "I don't need security. I'm just gonna go out there and be a singer! Who cares if I'm broke?" It may also be tempting to say "singing is not realistic. I care about security, so I'm going to let go of self-expression."
But in the long run, your old friends Security or Self-Expression will come running back and demanding answers, Brandi and Monica style. You cannot escape.
Instead, try giving space to your different needs, and staying curious about them. Act as if they are your children. Give each of them the attention they deserve.
I actually speak to my needs. I ask them, "Security, if I get a promotion this year, would you feel comfortable with me spending $ on some singing lessons?"
"Self-Expression, how would you feel about me singing every month at a choir? Is that enough singing for you for now?"
Other needs may chime in. For example, Ease, who may say," Please don't add this choir thing to your schedule. You need to rest!!"
You get the picture.
But through an open dialogue, you will often be able to negotiate with and find compromises between different needs. This will enable you to prioritize different needs more easily. Often, this dialogue will also spark creativity in you, coming up with ingenious solutions to meet your needs.
So keep up the conversation, and most importantly, take all of your needs seriously. They are not going away.
Are you feeling totally "off," but having a hard time understanding what you're yearning for? Are you thinking "I have no idea why I feel so sad or strange right now, so I have no idea how to make it better"? Here are 2 strategies you can use to figure out and honor what you need.
1. At this moment, assess your need using this list of universal needs. You may feel uncomfortable with or unsure of the need you picked. Notice your self-judgement. You may be saying things like this to yourself: "I need love, but I don't deserve it because I'm an unloveable person." "Yeah, I need belonging, but in my life, I have never felt like I belonged, so meeting this need is just not in the cards for me."
Even if you have never known what it's like to fulfill a need like "belonging" or "love," and even if you feel like you don't deserve to have this need fulfilled, sit with your desire. Admit to yourself that despite your past or your views of yourself, you want this. Breathe and take in your desire.
2. Grieve the fact that your need hasn't been met yet. This is a step many people overlook. Do you need safety at this moment, but you don't feel safe? That is an upsetting reality. Have you, in fact, never felt safe? That is a tragedy. Let yourself grieve this reality, and have compassion for yourself. Ask yourself "how would I feel if this need was never fulfilled?" This will embolden your desire and remind you why you want this, and why it's important to you to meet this need. Be gentle with yourself during this step.
These two strategies can help us admit to ourselves that we are human, and part of being human is having emotional needs! Slowing down and sitting with our desire and grief helps us connect with and believe our emotions. This is the first step toward meeting the need. Don't skip it!
Are you feeling more "at home" with your needs? What else is coming up for you? Feel free to reach out in the comments. <3