Extreme self-care and the 4 questions you need to ask

How can you tell it’s time for more self-care?


Extreme self-care

Ingrid does not practise self-care. However, she knew every last detail of the case down to the dates and the figures (in Euros and dollars) quoted in the entire document. Like every high-achiever, she’d done everything to cover every inch. Except that when the discussion got underway, and the lawyer for the other company began to dismantle her firm’s arguments, Ingrid began to slip. Hesitations turned into inappropriate interruptions, then came long-winded statements and soon Ingrid was beyond slipping, she was skidding. Her alarmed colleagues exchanged nervous glances.

What happened?

The next day, when we debriefed the meeting-that-should-have-gone-brilliantly-but-went-horribly-pear-shaped, Ingrid realised her confidence had been rattled. But why? She knew all her facts inside and out! Ingrid confessed she hadn’t slept much the night before, nor the whole week leading up to this critical meeting.

Come to think of it, she hadn’t hit the gym in 10 days but that didn’t matter, right, because she hardly had time to eat? What did you eat for breakfast the morning of the meeting, I asked.

“Dunno’, grabbed something on the way out… cookies, maybe?”

 Her complexion was dull and she looked strained. I found myself thinking: you desperately need a haircut but instead I said: was this the jacket you wore yesterday? Yes, why? Because it has a ketchup stain, and it looks ancient, on the back of the sleeve. She hadn’t noticed.

How can I take care of myself when I have files of this magnitude to master?” she sighed.

Read: How companies benefit from employee self-confidence

I get this question a lot (including, from smart, kick-ass, independent women).[Tweet “It’s a helpless, almost defeated wail that one is not able to manage one’s own well-being.”] My answer: unless you are a child, you have everything you need to practice self-care. And the higher you rise, the more extreme the self-care you will need. I have seen pennies drop in the eyes of women when I suggest that it’s because you have to defend “files of this magnitude”  that you need to practice self-care.

Appearing Unprepared is lack of self-care

Ingrid had shot herself in the foot by appearing unprepared (though she may have been, in her head). Her haphazard state, lack of energy and of groundedness undermined her authority and possibly her credibility, creating a breach, which her adversaries calmly entered, to steadily undermine her. As her confidence eroded, her natural resources and ideas (Oh! The hours and hours and nights of preparation!) evaporated. Her progressive defeat fanned the “opposition’s” flames, giving them the upper hand. Before long, it didn’t matter how much she knew, Ingrid didn’t have the wherewithal to secure the deal.

[Tweet “How can we avoid such a downward spiral, especially when the stakes are high?”]

Here’s a place to start. Ask yourself these questions at least once a week (consider writing down the answers):

  • How am I feeling?
  • How am I responding to day-to-day events?
  • How clear is my thinking?
  • How are my choices and actions honoring my sense of purpose?

Perform your Personal Audit

People who perform this ‘personal audit’ fare better, even if the answers are not what they’d like to see.

That’s because knowing what is going on with you will boost your self-confidence. Read:Have Confidence in You to Create the Career You Want. People who have that basic self-awareness will more readily identify what they need to address (or radically rectify) in their life to feel more grounded at work. Be it more oxygen (how about mini-walks at various times of day?), more patience (how about some deep breathing exercises?), more clarity (what about meditating or taking time to think out loud with friends?) or even more inspiration (maybe schedule a talk with my boss to review my medium and long-term objectives?).

Self-care isn’t just ensuring your hair is properly cut and styled, your nails polished and your abs toned.[Tweet ” It extends far deeper to respecting your needs on every level.”] This is only achievable if you actually know what you need and understand what has meaning for you. These are baseline conditions for elaborating what we call extreme self-care measures which, in turn, fuel self-confidence.

And just like Ingrid, without adequate self-care you might just sabotage your delivery, your performance or your impact. No matter how smart or prepared you are.