Skill 7: Self

If someone lets themselves get pushed around, or always gets the crap work, do you respect that person? You might feel bad for them, or care for them, but do you respect them? Do they seem happy if they always say yes and agree to any requests sent their way? How do you feel about someone who tries to act like someone they’re not? These are all examples of circumstances we have all found ourselves in. Usually at the time, you feel forced into it, and you don’t know what to do in the moment. If someone stands up for you you feel a rush of relief, but if that hadn’t happened you would have been one of those people. Learning to look out for yourself is a very important factor in cultivating self-respect and happiness. It also has long reaching effects in your interpersonal relationships and career progress. By taking care of yourself you demonstrate to yourself and others that you have a high level of self respect. If you let people take advantage of you, it will likely have the opposite effect. There are many ways of doing it. Some come easier than others. Here are the big ones:

Being Yourself

It happens all the time. We act like we like something, or we believe something just because other people do. It helps us get accepted into the group. But once we’re there, we don’t really feel that happy. We don’t feel like we fit in, or we just can’t get as excited about things like they do. When we try to act like we’re somebody we’re not, we get into these situations. It’s only when we talk about what we really think and what we really want that people get to know the real us, and act accordingly. When you act like yourself, people weed themselves out. The ones that like the real you stick around. The ones that don’t get you, or don’t care, move on. So soon enough you are around people that not only let you be you, but like the fact that you are you. It’s why being yourself is so important when looking for a romantic relationship. But it is just as important in your daily life when making friends and working with other people. 

One thing to keep in mind: being yourself and letting people self-select doesn’t mean you are excused from trying to improve yourself or from learning how to communicate better. It means you aren’t sacrificing your values and you’re vocal about what you truly care about. Don’t forget to keep learning and to keep trying. You still need to consider the people around you.

Speaking Up

One important way of communicating who you are is speaking up. If something is happening that you don’t like, say so. If you have a different opinion, speak it. Don’t be a jerk about it, but people will listen if you approach the topic in a considerate way. If you are being forgotten, or your turn for something is skipped, let everyone know. Don’t let people just look past you. But also be sure not to whine, or be a broken record. 

If you are a person that does not frequently speak up, it will take some extra work in the beginning. People will probably first try to ignore you anyway or make fun of the fact that you’re actually saying something. But if you stick to your guns, make good cases, and keep speaking up when it’s important, the people around you will adapt and change their perceptions.

Saying No

There will always be a million things to do. By prioritizing and working with those on your team (colleagues or family or friends), you can pick out what is important, and what can wait. Many of us feel like we have to say yes if someone asks us to do something. If we say no, we’ll feel like a jerk. Or maybe the person won’t like us anymore. But if you say no with good reason, people will actually respect you for it. And they will stop assuming they can dump things on your plate. So next time you are feeling overwhelmed and someone asks you to do something, say no. Explain what is taking up your time. If it’s your boss, ask them to help you re-prioritize your tasks if it is so important. If it’s someone else, see if they can take something else off your plate, or can get you extra resources to do the other work. 

Asking for Help

Many of us hate asking for help. The task is our responsibility. Or we don’t want to look dumb or incapable. Maybe we want all the glory. But if you can’t do something, or if you’re having trouble – ask for help. You don’t even have to tell someone that you’re having trouble. Just ask for opinions. Swing by someone’s desk to double-check your thinking. See if others have suggestions. Asking for help will help you do a better job and get it done faster.

You Time

It’s very easy to get caught up in everything and forget about ourselves. Make sure you are taking time for yourself each week. Maybe that’s an evening to read a book, or go out with friends. It might just be treating yourself to that extra scoop of ice cream. Regardless: you deserve to be treated well, and you can treat yourself well. 

Self Care vs. Selfishness

There is a fine line between taking care of yourself and being selfish. Generally, it is defined by your intentions and reasoning behind why you do what you do. If you say no because you want to stay effective and not get overworked, that would be considered taking care of yourself. If you say no because you don’t feel like it, or just because you don’t always enjoy that task, that would probably be considered selfish. Stay aware of how all these requests make you feel, and think about why you want to respond the way you do. Make sure you aren’t just excusing yourself from doing what you should, or from helping someone else that needs it.

Stick to your guns, and make sure you are taking care of yourself. You will begin to notice a change in the way people interact with you.

Practice Suggestions

  • Pick a day this week where you do something just for you. An extra scoop of ice cream. Time to vegetate. Time with friends.
  • Don’t like it when someone does something? Speak up.
  • Want to do something? Say so.
  • Having trouble figuring something out? Ask for help. Double-check your thinking.
  • Don’t let yourself do something that is against your own values.
  • Someone causing lots of pain in your life? Time to move on, or to find another way.
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