How many times in your
life have you had to put something "on the back
burner", letting an idea or a project simmer in the
background while you focused on something else? How
often were the things that went on the back burner your
personal hopes, dreams or needs while you concentrated
on the hopes, dreams or needs of someone else?
There is nothing wrong with that decision and in some
cases it can be admirable. However, it's not admirable
if your personal needs never come off the back burner.
We all know that, during the safety instructions on an
airplane, we are instructed to put the mask over our own
mouth first, then on our child's. Why? The reason
is simple -- if we are knocked unconscious there will be
no one to look after the child, endangering them even
more than those few moments it takes to put our own mask
on. The wisdom of this is readily apparent once we think
about it, and is good advice to take forward into all
areas of our lives.
For many years, I put the needs of others first. As I
evolved personally, I came to understand that it was
okay--healthier, even-- to put my needs equal to the
needs of others. In fact, it is how I now define the
word "selfish," and use the term
"self-centered" for someone determined to live
as though the world revolves around them.
Even with that advanced understanding, however, I still
didn't take care of my self as much as I needed. That
included delaying doctors' appointments or working past
the exhaustion point because someone else needed me.
Even though I felt my needs were equal to the needs of
others, the reality is that 90% of the time I still
opted to take care of others before myself. This isn't
bad, either, because for the most part these were
conscious choices I made. Unfortunately, there has
been a physical and emotional cost that becomes harder
and harder to bounce back from.
Where does that leave me today? With a new
understanding, one that suggests that, in fact, I need
to opt for myself more than 10% of the time.
However, I'm still basically someone who likes to give,
and I like that about myself, so it's really important
for me not to become that "self-centered"
person I described earlier. And that brings me to
the concept of choosing to put me on the front burner,
to live on the front burner.
This analogy is really appropriate for me. I think it
works because I
still am a person who cares for others. So, while
I may have neglected myself on the back burner, I find
that I do not neglect others back there. The
result is that I am truly taking care of myself and
caring for others at the same time, for the first time
in my life. Sometimes we just need the right analogy or
framing for an idea to really take hold. This 'front
burner' idea is perfect for me. In fact, I now keep the
tea kettle on the front burner on the stove. This
way, every time I walk into the kitchen I am reminded of
this shift in my thinking and it helps me remain focused
and clear about this positive new action and change in
So, where in your life have you been putting yourself on
the back burner and forgetting about you? A
harried parent, juggling work and family? An
over-conscientious leader or manager? Oldest sibling?
Youngest sibling? Caught between aging parents and
developing children? No matter how overwhelmed you might
be feeling, it is possible to find some moments of time
just for yourself. The key is remembering that it is not
an either/or situation. You get to take care of
yourself and handle your responsibilities to others.
Make a conscious decision to live YOUR life on the front
* * * *
Louise Morganti Kaelin. Louise was a Life Success
Coach who passed on in 2011. Rest in peace,