I am a selfish person.
For a very long, long time, I felt shame around that.
It used to be “wrong” to be selfish. And while I am grateful for the shift in thinking around this concept — the understanding that one has to put one’s self FIRST such that one can be of service to others (the flight attendants have been telling us that for years!) — there is still a remnant of that lingering shame that licks up like a flame around my feet from time to time.
It happened again just last week when I was working with my coach. We were tweaking my programs and service offerings (as we do each year) and evaluating how they were working for everyone involved. And we were discussing the pros and cons of making some changes to the existing programs, and to adding some new ones.
As we did this evaluation, I felt my anxiety creeping up at certain times…and as I tracked into that reaction, I was somewhat surprised to discover that, at the root of it, existed that wee flicker of shame.
Let me explain further…
You see, when you’re a service provider as I am, you typically go into business to provide, well, service! And deeply ingrained in many of us is the idea that this service Should Be provided At All Costs.
Even at the cost of ourselves.
And I have worked very hard on this issue for many years, and thought that I was truly “over it,” until last week when it cropped up again.
To set the scene, my coach and I were discussing the needs of my clients who are at different levels of their businesses, and how I could best serve at each level in terms of how much time we would spend together, how much email support I would provide, and how much I would charge for that service.
As we were discussing my entry-level service offering, I felt this anxiety rising. A quick check-in showed that it was related to the idea we were tossing around to scale back on the depth and breadth of service I was providing to this group.
“I can’t scale it back,” I said out loud, finally having determined the root of my anxiety.
“Why? What’s bothering you about that idea?” asked my coach.
“I can’t scale it back because in doing so, I can’t serve at the level that I want to. I need my clients to feel like I have their backs. That’s why I do what I do. That’s what I love about what I do. That’s what makes what I do different, it’s why people choose ME as their coach.”
“Okay,” she replied, “so why did you want to look at making changes to this program then? Something about it mustn’t feel quite right or you would keep doing it as you have been for the last year. What about this program isn’t feeling like a WIN for you?”
And that’s when it clicked.
There was a niggling place deep inside me that wanted to speak up about why this program wasn’t quite feeling like a WIN for me any more, but felt like I couldn’t…that I had to put the needs of my clients ahead of my own. Enter that old shame around being selfish.
So we dug around a bit…what WAS at the root of me not feeling like this program gave me a WIN? It allowed me to serve in the way that I wanted to (so that wasn’t a problem). Was it about the length of time I spent with the clients? Was it about the amount that I charged for it? Was it about the way in which the client appointments were arranged in my calendar? Was it that the emails were sometimes flooding my inbox and I needed a system to sort them out so as not to be overwhelmed? What was really at the root of me not feeling like this program served ME?
It took some quiet moments for me to pull it all out to the surface.I discovered I had some issues with emails — I was getting overwhelmed by them and needed to manage my inbox and my time more efficiently. And I determined that I wasn’t happy with the length of time that I engaged with these clients for. The minimum months that we were set to work together simply did not feel like enough to me anymore…made me feel like there was a rush, a push to get things accomplished way before they could reasonably occur which was stressing me out.
As I dug around and pulled these truths to the surface, I let those flickers of the flame of shame of being selfish tickle my toes, and in the way that a firefighter once showed me in some grade school demonstration, I stamped the damn things out.
I am here to serve. And I will serve well because that’s what fulfills me and lifts me up. But I will not serve others at the cost of my Self; for what good am I when I am unhappy, unwell, unfulfilled, and just plain grumpy?
And so from one business owner to another, I encourage you to take stock of things this final quarter of 2016.
How does what you’re doing feel for YOU? You are creating a win for your clients, but are you creating a win for you? And is that win permeating every cell of your body? Can you feel it in the depth of your being? Or are there some niggling bits that make that win feel not quite as good, not quite as solid, as you might like?
It’s a wonderful time to make some shifts for 2017, my friends. Just make sure that they are WIN-WIN for your clients and for you.