I didn’t listen to my body’s signals and warning signs, to the messages and info it was trying to relay to me.
“Don’t push yourself so much.”
“You need to put yourself first.”
I had tried to focus on myself repeatedly.
But I kept reverting to my self-sacrificing ways.
Feelings of guilt would always overpower any attempts at consistent self-care.
It seems I learned ‘the art of never disappointing’ at a very young age.
As a child, my parents would beam with pride and introduce me as “the daughter that doesn’t even know how to say the word ‘no’”.
Being the eldest of three girls, and having a mother who suffered from severe depression, also meant I grew up long before my time.
My hierarchy as first born, along with my personality, shaped me into the mature, highly responsible and painfully shy kid that I was.
My early conditioning and continual reinforcement meant I blossomed into a young woman that was high-achieving, uber-empathic and ultra reliable.
It also meant I avoided conflict and confrontation like the devil, and was unable to stand up for myself if my life depended on it.
It’s difficult to choose yourself over others when you’re repeatedly faced with tough and heartrending situations.
What do you do when you find out your mother is dying of cancer two and a half months after you’ve opened your own yoga studio?
What do you do when your sister, who suffers from a severe mental illness and has been living with your mother (who is now dying) has no idea where she will live or who will care for her?
What do you do when you’re the maid of honour at your other sister’s wedding while still tending to your dying mother, as she attends the wedding strapped to a stretcher because the cancer has broken her bones and she cannot sit upright without blood-curdling screams?
I’ll tell you what I did…
I did all of those things. And then some.
I based my decisions on my values… or so I thought.
I didn’t know that mixed in with my values were a set of unconscious core beliefs that truly drove my actions.
Core beliefs I didn’t even realize were beliefs, because they were woven into the very fabric of my being, into my perception of myself, the world, and ‘how things work’.
These indiscernible ‘rules’ acted as filters – narrowing my list of ‘acceptable’ and ‘appropriate’ responses to life’s dilemmas.
My core beliefs translated my values – values centered around family, relationships, being a ‘good person’, acting with integrity – into ‘all or nothing’ actions, into ‘yes’ to everyone.
My logic was: If you love someone, you put your own needs aside.
My problem was: I didn’t even recognize that I had needs – that’s how little I valued myself.
So, what happened you ask?
My body piped up.
Loud and clear.
It let me know it was not having any more of it.
If I wasn’t going to change my ways and care for myself the way I did for others, my body was going to make sure I did.
I ended up developing an autoimmune disease.
A disease that turned my entire world upside down, radically limiting my physical abilities and extinguishing my way of life as I’d known it.
Now, my disease made self-care a non-negotiable,
I became my number one priority, whether I wanted to or not.
My new, challenging life and worsening health forced me to take a good, hard look at my life and choices; my ethics and beliefs.
I began to question how I had come about the various ‘definitions’ and ‘rules’ by which I lived.
What I ultimately realized was this…
- I had no limits or boundaries when it came to giving of myself.
- I did not feel my existence was as important as others’.
- I felt I was fundamentally flawed, making me undeserving and unworthy.
- I felt embarrassed to be myself, and was willing to accept any poor treatment to avoid being ridiculed, laughed at, ostracized or disliked.
- To make up for my ‘flawed self’, I tried to meet any and all demands, and morphed into an over-achieving slave to perfectionism.
- I wanted to be liked, loved and included – and felt the only way was to be seen as an asset; as highly capable, responsible and someone you wanted to have around.
In short, I was suppressing my authentic self and pushing to conform, and trying to sustain these two ‘modes’ depleted me of inordinate amounts of energy.
My body was spent from carrying not just today’s repression and pressure, but every single instance of going along with something I didn’t really want to do; all the pressured moments summed up to finally break ‘the camel’s back’.
No wonder I developed a disease that left me feeling like the living dead every day – I had been draining my energy reserves for decades!
Instead of ‘donating blood’, as a ‘good person’ might, I was always giving a blood transfusion!
I had finally found the root cause of my problems.
My conditioning and core beliefs had me constantly being there for everyone besides myself.
It has taken years of small steps, unearthing and expressing my authentic self and curbing my conformist ways, but I have come out the other end singing.
I changed my life-long, unhealthy living patterns, and although I still struggle with some issues, I can honestly say that I am finally LIVING and LOVING my life.
No, it has not been, nor is, easy living with this disease, but I have released myself from dragging the ball and chain of duty, I’ve unburdened myself from the oppressive weight of guilt and…
I have actually found my voice.
I feel so free and light.
My life is filled with myriads of wonderful things – friendships, art, nature, soulful work – and I am able to savour them all.
The good news is there IS a balance between self and others. You don’t have to lose your health or suffer a crash-and-burn like I did.
The great news is you don’t have to stop being a ‘good person’ to make yourself a priority.
I can help show you how.
If my story speaks to you, let’s connect.
I would love nothing more than to support you.
Or, if you’re still curious about me, here you go…
Loves & Passions
Travel – I love active vacations. I’ve cycled through the Rockies for a week (500km!), I’ve kayaked, hiked, snorkeled, etc in Costa Rica, climbed extinct volcanoes on Greek isles, and have had memorable adventures in Utah and Arizona’s Zion National Park.
Yoga – I actually became a yoga instructor in 2006, and opened my own studio in 2007. Even though I no longer teach yoga, it’s still a huge part of my life. The core philosophy has really complemented the rest of my work.
Languages – I’ve learned 7 so far (though I’m not fluent in all of them).
Scientific Research – I started out as a cell biology researcher (I even had a paper published by age 22), and went on to complete a microbiology degree and further research work post university. I love everything science – I can never get enough of this topic.
Fitness – I went through my own personal transformation while completing my degree and research work. I went from chubby lab rat to health nut, and as a result decided I wanted to help others have the same experience so I changed careers and became a personal trainer. I love moving my body – be it cycling, weight training or rock climbing, I say bring it on!
Salsa Dancing – I took lessons in university and have been dancing ever since.
Parkinson’s and Other Neurological Disorders – Because of my unique mix of clinical experience and personal training I ended up developing a sub specialty working with people with Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders. Doctors who knew me from my research days would refer their patients to me. I worked with countless people, helping them maintain their independent living status and stay in the best shape as they dealt with various diseases – everything from movement disorders to brain tumors. I’ve been so fortunate to meet and work with some wonderful people, and even further appreciate the miracle of the human body.