You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup: Prioritizing Self-Care as a Service Provider

Jul 30, 2022 | entrepreneur, self-compassion | 0 comments

Putting Other’s Needs Above Your Own

Many of my clients are service providers – therapists, coaches, consultants, etc. Their passion for their work comes from a place of wanting to help others. Outside of their work they also usually have a tendency to help people in their lives – friends, family members, or volunteering in their community. Many of my clients hold a similar belief when it comes to practicing self-care –

Taking care of others’ needs is more important than taking care of my own.

How does this belief develop? When does the admirable desire to help others and leave the world a better place become a mission that leaves no space for caring for oneself?  

I’ve seen firsthand how so many of my own colleagues, friends, and clients burn themselves out putting the needs of others before their own.

You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup

The truth is that in attempting to be selfless, we often end up unable to help anyone. In fact, I often pose the question to my clients:

Could not taking of yourself actually be selfish?

I then share with them the following metaphor:

Imagine that I have a glass of water and the level of water in the glass is the amount of energy (emotional, physical, spiritual, etc.) that I have to give to others. If I’m only taking care of other people, the water is going to constantly be draining from my glass. If I don’t practice self-care (i.e. fill up my glass), I’m going to run out of water and not have anything to give to others. 

Not only that, but if I’m not filling my own glass then I’m going to unconsciously be asking others to fill it for me. I’ll need my clients, my children, and my friends to give me positive praise. I’ll need my partner to avoid saying anything that might hurt me. Without realizing it, I’ll be asking for constant care from others because I won’t be giving it to myself.

It Takes Time to Start Doing Things Differently

The good news is that once I discuss this metaphor with clients, they usually start to accept that if they continue to leave self-care on the back burner, they aren’t going to be able to move forward with what they wanted to work on in coaching. For example, feeling less stressed, enjoying time with their kids, being more successful with their own business, fighting less with their partner, etc. They start to see that not practicing self-care actually sets them up to be less equipped to do the work that they feel so passionate about, or have the relationships they strive for.

The more complicated news is that these clients then usually want a quick fix for changing things (who doesn’t!). That’s when I have to break the news to them that beginning to make themselves a priority is not like flipping a light switch. They’ve probably had years of practice putting others first so it’s going to take some time to start doing things differently.

Since I don’t want them to feel unmotivated, I compare learning to practice self-care with another skill they’ve mastered. Many of my clients live global lifestyles so for them this could be learning a language. For others, it might be tying your shoes, playing an instrument, or learning to cook. Learning a new skill takes time and we have to break it into baby steps. Below I’ve outlined the steps I take clients through and that you can try yourself if you’re struggling to practice self-care as a service provider.

Getting Started With Practicing Self-Care

Brainstorm ways you already know to practice self-care

Self-care is not just bubble baths and massages. It can often be small ways we take care of our own needs each day. If it’s hard to think of self-care activities, you can start by getting down to the basics – do you let yourself rest when you’re tired? Do you allow yourself to enjoy some of your favorite foods? These self-care strategies can turn problematic if they’re the only ones you have, both resting and savoring food are both great gifts to give yourself.

Add to your list of self-care strategies (and keep it simple)

I often give my clients a list of self-care activities so they can identify new ones they might be interested in trying. These are quite simple activities that you might not think of as self-care, such as taking a few minutes each day to practice deep breathing or trying to mindfully brush your teeth. These may seem simple, but they can be powerful ways to fill up your cup. I encourage my clients to experiment and try a few new things between sessions. One way to start to notice what type of self-care you need is to ask yourself this question – What do I really need right now?

Make time for self-care in your day

If it’s hard to make time for self-care, then you can make a date with yourself and schedule it on your calendar. Or if you don’t have big chunks of time, setting a reminder on your phone once a day to do a small act of self-care (take deep breaths, do a mini meditation, watch a funny puppy video), is another great strategy. Recording your self-care in a planner or bullet journal, or using a habit tracker app can also be a great way to stay motivated as you work to make this a part of your new routine.

Identify and overcome other obstacles to practicing self-care

Usually, people find that there are other obstacles getting in the way of practicing self-care. Such as other misconceptions about self-care, a strong inner critic, or a tendency to let their actions be dictated by what they “should” do. This usually takes digging a little deeper and working with the support of a professional like a therapist or a coach. With my clients I help them learn ways to “catch” some of the unhelpful thoughts that pop up during the day so they don’t get tangled up with them. Together we help you so that your actions are being guided by what is deeply important to you and not what other people (or your inner critic) expect from you.

Caring For Ourselves Isn’t Selfish, It’s a Necessity

The truth is that if you want to keep caring for your clients and your loved ones, you will need to find a way to make sure you are prioritizing your own needs too.

While practicing compassion, kindness, and empathy towards others are all important, it’s also essential that we direct this same love towards ourselves.

“It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.”

-Mandy Hale

Are you interested in working with me? You can learn more about my 1:1 coaching services HERE.

Or schedule a free game plan call with me HERE so we can meet and decide if it would be a good fit to work together.

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HI I’M MELISSA

I’m a mindset coach for entrepreneurs who want to make a big impact with their business but need help getting out of their own way.

Together we work on increasing their confidence and resilience so that they can be successful business owners, without sacrificing their well-being or relationships in the process.

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