I fully appreciate that point of view and have fallen victim to it myself. Just as your retirement funds won’t grow if you don’t invest in them, however, you won’t continue to flourish if you don’t invest in yourself. It’s not just me that feels this way—even the Centers for Disease Control tout the importance of self-care.
Why is it important to invest in yourself?
It’s about the balance of energy….
If you keep giving out money from a checking account but not depositing money back into it, eventually, you will be in deep financial trouble. The same is true with emotional energy. I first learned of this concept when reading relationship books in an effort to improve important relationships in my life. If you continue to give in a relationship but don’t feel you receive anything in return, even if it’s a simple acknowledgment of your giving, then you can start to feel drained and tired—both emotionally and physically. Think about this relationship of energy in the different areas of your life—your work, your family, your friendships, etc. Write down the relationships that give you energy and write down the relationships that you feel take energy. (Side note—then make a plan to figure how what to do to deal with the relationships that take energy. More to come on this in a later post).
Now, reflect on the fact that you have a relationship with yourself. If you continue to give of yourself to others but don’t spend time restoring and refilling that emotional energy by giving to yourself, you will eventually become drained. Do yourself a favor—don’t be a martyr. If you’re drained and exhausted, then you soon won’t have anything left to give (or, if you continue to keep on giving, you will do so with resentment or without the enthusiasm, love and emotional energy that those around you deserve).
It’s about modeling healthy behaviors for your family.
If maintaining a healthy balance of emotional energy isn’t enough motivation to take care of yourself, then let the fact that you are modeling behavior for your children be the motivation you need. As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, you are modeling everything for your kids. They are watching you and absorbing more than you think. If they see you running on empty, they will come to think that that is the way the world works. Is that what you want for them?
By showing that you care about yourself enough to take time to restore and invest in yourself, you’re demonstrating not only the power of self-care, but the power of self-love and self-respect (which helps build the self-confidence mentioned in my previous post).
What is the best way to invest in yourself?
Step 1: Figure out what self-care means to you at this point in your life……
The world is constantly changing and you are constantly evolving. When you were in your 20’s, maybe an investment in yourself meant you went to college and spent time with friends. When you started your career, maybe an investment in yourself meant going to happy hours to build your network.
Now that you’ve had kids are are at a different point in your career, take the time (yes, that’s an investment too!) to think about what you would consider an investment in yourself. Is it going back to school? Rekindling friendships? Going on a girls’/guys’ weekend with friends? Or is it just a matter of reading a good book at a coffee shop, getting a mani/pedi, or indulging in a massage?
What you consider an investment in yourself will be different from what someone else’s choice of investment—and that’s okay. You’re not doing this for someone else—you’re doing it for you.
Step 2: Create a plan to make it happen
Once you’ve created the list of possible ideas, narrow them down to a few. Then, make a plan to make them happen! I’m not just talking about saying that you will do them—I mean opening up that family calendar, booking the time, and making any relevant appointments you need to.
If you’re making a bigger investment in yourself, such as going back to school, break down the investment into smaller chunks. Just like a savings account, putting away a little bit each paycheck can lead to big rewards in the long-run. The same counts for self-investment. For example, when I decided to go back to graduate school, I broke down the activities into major categories (taking my GMAT, finding the right school, determining financing, and getting through the classes). For each of those major categories I planned the smaller steps needed to complete that category. I had, for example, a date by which I wanted to have taken my GMAT. I then figured out how much I would need to study each week (and broke that down to days) in order to be successful in taking the test. I also leveraged my old friend “forced efficiency” to get the most done as possible. I had index cards with vocabulary words on it and studied those while I waited in line at the grocery store. I carried practice tests with me to work and, when I needed a mental break on a project, I could step outside for 10 minutes and practice. Breaking this investment down into smaller chunks made it feel less overwhelming—and actually more exciting and recharging.
Know that whatever plan you create you should re-evaluate it periodically. School was great, but when I was done, I was glad to be done. I decided to invest in myself by reading for fun for a few months after graduation. After a major life transition, I decided to fill my cup and invest in myself by starting this blog and business. At different points in my life I’ve also done things like taking a sewing class, salsa lessons, and running half marathons. Just how financial markets changes require you to adapt your investment strategy, you will need to adjust your self-investment strategy as your family and live evolve and change.
Step 3: Tell people what you are doing and why
All areas of our life can see improvement through improved communication. The same goes for self-investment. In fact, a failure to properly communicate what you’re doing and why could offset some of the benefits of this investment. Don’t create and act on this beautiful plan without telling those around you what you’re doing.
It’s also important to consider how your self-investment could affect those around you, and if necessary, create a plan to offset those negative impacts. Referring back to my school example, I made the decision when I went back to school that I would do as much homework as possible when my kids were sleeping so as to minimize the time “school focus” would take away from them. I felt that I was already traveling away a weekend a month to go to classes, and I didn’t want to take more time away from them. Did I miss sleeping more? Heck yes. But in the end, I chose play time with my kids over a few extra hours of sleep.
Sharing what you’re doing and why also provides an opportunity for you to educate and inspire others to do the same. Ask your kids and spouse/parter what they do to invest in themselves. Ask them if they have goals they want to work towards and what you can do to help them achieve those goals.
In general, I think as working parents we need to stop thinking of an investment in ourselves as a sacrifice and burden to others. When you are taking the time to grow and nurture yourself and making sure your emotional energy is balanced, you in fact are investing not only in yourself, but in your family. You will have more to give, and you will model an important behavior for them.
I hope you realize a large return on (self) investment!