A few years ago, I had a client. She was smart and beautiful. She had a bright light in her eyes, and at first glance, she seemed to have her life together, yet one could read some sadness on her face. A sadness she was trying to hide under perfect makeup and a large smile.
She came to me because she needed guidance in taking her business to the next level. So on our first sessions, we would circle her hectic schedule. We would talk about how all her employees would come to her with every tiny, almost insignificant problem and how she would solve everything. Then she told me how she'd be there for her recently divorced friend almost every evening and how every morning, she would call her mom on her way to the office. They had a close relationship, and her mom would always be waiting for that morning call.
Stripping the layers, I could learn about the vital role my client would play in other people’s lives. Sometimes, her cousin would call her late in the night for chit-chat and a glass of wine. At times, her sister-in-law would want to vent about her marriage with my client’s brother.
When it comes to her romantic life, I wasn’t amazed to learn that my client didn’t have one. She didn’t have time to focus on a personal relationship when struggling to grow her business. Her goal was to bring her business into the top 10 in its industry, and after that, she’ll see where to begin with other aspects of her life. And it's not like she was always single. She was in a relationship with her business partner. After a few years of focusing on building a strong, stable family business, her partner fell out of love and left her for one of her friends.
Now, after bringing her life together again and starting a new business, it wasn’t the time for her to think about a romantic partner who could hold her back and could also hurt her feelings. But then again, the months would pass, and her business seemed to be in the same place. She felt stuck there. Her business was so important; it was a part of her, yet she didn’t know how to take it to the next level. It was tough, especially since she had all that background noise from everyone in her life.
After listening about her busy schedule, and all the people who’d see her as their balance, I asked the following question: “You told me about all the relationships you have, or you have had with all the people in your life so far, but you didn’t say a word about the relationship with yourself. What can you tell me about this relationship?”
There was a minute of silence interrupted by a deep “Hmm...”. And then, a few tears started rolling down her cheeks. She had no time for a relationship with herself. She was juggling between her business and her employees’ tiny problems, her needy mom, who would always see her as the strong one, her friends and their life stories, who would look up to her for advice, her brother or her cousin, or everyone else who needed her.
We had a few sessions to internalize and accept this epiphany, but the most important step was already taken.
Soon she started to realize that if she doesn’t take time for herself, to know herself better, to understand herself the way she does with everyone else in her life; if she doesn’t know what’s important for her and why does she do the things she does, she won’t be able to expand her business, nor will she be able to help her friends and family anymore.
She realized that to love other people, you have to love yourself first. Our life on Earth is a journey and exactly like in an airplane, where you have to put your oxygen mask first to help others. In life, you have to give yourself love and appreciation to give others the same support.
Self-love is not equal to being selfish. You can’t feed others when your pot is empty; you can’t protect others when you don’t wear your armor. As romantic as it may sound, losing yourself to keep someone else in your life does not apply in real life because if you lose yourself trying to please or to help others, you’ll lose them, too. And this is WHY the most important relationship in our lives is with ourselves.
It was a year-long journey to unlearn the old habits and to learn how to put herself first. It was a road full of ups and downs, of internal conflict in breaking up with the people-pleaser inside herself, but at the end of this avenue, she did it. And only then her business started to flourish.
How far are you on this journey of building the best relationship of your life?