Self-care vs Professionalism (hint: It’s a false choice)

I have a confession to make… I suck at self-care.

Which may not seem like a big deal, except that a large part of my philosophy behind building a business is based on building a sustainable business.

And no matter how sustainable you think your business is, if you don’t make the time to take care of yourself, it’s not sustainable.

Because when you’re a small business owner, you are your business. If you burn out because you couldn’t “find” the time to take care of yourself, you’ll be useless to your business.

I know this. I learned this lesson the hard way, so it’s engrained on my soul.

And yet, I still make the mistake of not taking proper care of myself.

It’s especially prevalent when I have to choose between “self-care” and “professionalism” – though in this case, “professionalism” can more accurately be referred to as “the perceived expectations of others.”

You see, even though I know better, I tend to get caught up in not wanting to let people down.

There are two major problems with this:

  1. Sacrificing self-care in order to live up to expectations tends to create a cycle of not taking care of myself.
  2. Failing to take care of myself puts me into a place, energy-wise, where my work suffers… meaning that I may be “showing up”, but I’m not fully present and presenting.

It’s all well and good to push yourself a little harder in order to fulfill obligations. But when you push yourself too hard, with no time for rest, nobody wins.

Because the truth is, when you’re exhausted, you do shitty work.

Practicing what I preach

I promised myself I wouldn’t make the same mistakes I made in my last business.

One of the biggest mistakes I made was to try to pretend that stress in my life didn’t impact my performance in my business. Which is ridiculous, because of course it does.

Someday I’ll tell you the tale. It wasn’t pretty.

There’s a reason I teach energy-management, and the importance of honoring your needs (especially if you’re an introvert like me). These are crucial to building a successful, sustainable business… and you ignore them at your own peril.

Alas, sometimes I forget my own lessons.

Then again, sometimes life just has a way of happening, and all you can do is roll with it.

Turns out, even the best laid plans go awry

Not long ago, I took a week and a half long trip to visit family. It was lots of driving, socializing, and trying to work on the road while my mom watched my son in the other room.

Fun was had, but as an introvert, it was of the most exhausting kind.

I knew I would need downtime between returning home and getting back to work, so I scheduled that. Two whole days of taking it easy… or so I thought.

Turns out, my son’s teeth had another plan. He spent the weekend fussing and cranky, needing mommy way more than he normally does. Which is to say, pretty much constantly.

He slept poorly, which means I slept poorly.

He wanted to be picked up, held, put down, picked up… and on and on. Not normally a problem, except I hurt my back on the trip, and he isn’t getting any smaller.

My two days of rest turned into more work than the trip had been.

But I didn’t want to let anyone down

So I powered through it. I figured I’d just get through the weekend, and on Monday the babysitter could take care of him while I focused on work.

Sure I was tired, but I had obligations, and I was sure as hell not going to let people down.

Even if it did mean working while exhausted and stressed.

And then the Universe decided to send me a message. Monday morning rolled around, and the babysitter called; she was sick and couldn’t watch the baby.

Ok, I don’t really think the Universe made the babysitter sick just so I would be forced to slow down and take care of myself. If it did, it should be ashamed, that’s a pretty mean trick to pull on the babysitter!

I learned my lesson – for now

I had originally planned a webinar for that day, but given the mass amounts of unplanned crazy, I decided it would be best to reschedule.

Technically, you could say I had to reschedule because I didn’t have anyone to watch the baby. Which was true.

But that’s not necessarily true. If I pushed, I could probably have found someone to watch him on short notice. (Maybe)

But the lesson, the one I hope you take away from this, is that sometimes you need to reassess what it means to live up to expectations.

Which would be worse:

  • Pushing yourself to show up for an important appointment, but being so exhausted that you provide shitty service
  • Rescheduling the appointment, so that you can show up and provide excellent service

It’s tempting to tell yourself that you can show up exhausted and still provide the excellent service.

I know, I told myself that lie for years.

But it is a lie. You cannot have both.

And as much as I value showing up when I said I would, I’m not willing to show up and waste peoples’ time.

Therefore, we rescheduled.

Self-care = Respect

The hardest lesson for me to learn has been this; taking care of myself is a way of showing respect for my people.

When I fail to take care of myself, the quality of service I provide suffers. And you deserve better than that.

Where have you been dropping the self-care ball? Is there something you could do differently, today or this week, to pick the ball back up?


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  1. Wendy Moore on February 18, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    We all need to be reminded Heidi and your willingness to let others see your vulnerability makes you a better teacher! We know you really DO understand us! My two self kindness gurus are Brene Brown and Marianne Elliott. Brene talks about our tendency to think we need to be constantly near exhaustion to be seen to be working, contributing. She talks about how we struggle with structuring rest and play into our lives. And with a little one that is even harder! She also writes in The Gifts of Imperfections a wonderful definition that clarifies the difference between striving to do your best and perfectionism! It really clicked for me. And Marianne Elliott has a really good R rated Tale Care of your self message you can google. So I hope you and your little one have a really restorative few days and look forward to your webinar when it happens!
    Hugs from Australia,

    • Heidi Hauck on February 18, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      Thank you so much Wendy! Brene Brown is one of my favorites as well. I’m not familiar with Marianne Elliot (though the name does sound vaguely familiar), I’ll have to look up that self care tale. 🙂

      Have a fabulous week, and I’ll “see” you on the webinar next Tuesday! <3