How and Why We Let Our Lamps Run Low

BY: Lisa Hammond & BJ Gallagher

A story from Oil for Your Lamps...Women Taking Care of Themselves

Virtually every woman we know has the same problem - she knows what's good for her, but she often doesn't do it. She knows she should eat less and exercise more, but still she doesn't make healthy choices. She knows she needs to spend her time and money more effectively, but good time and money management elude her. She finds herself always putting others first, while neglecting her own needs and wants. She doesn't get enough rest or sleep and her endless to-do list hangs overhead like the sword of Damocles. As our friend Brenda Knight laments frequently, "Why am I always riding in the back of my own bus?"

We don't do the things we know are good for us because we are so busy taking care of others that we neglect ourselves. The problem isn't lack of information - we have plenty of information about the importance of sleep, healthy foods, and exercise. The problem is how we prioritize our lives.

Psychologists tell us that some people are inner-directed and some are other-directed. That is, some people focus on their own internal guidance system for making choices about how to spend their time and energy. Their own self-interest ranks very high on their list of priorities. "What's best for me?" is a key guiding principle in determining where they focus their attention and how they make day-to-day decisions.

And some people are other-directed, which means that their primary focus is external, not internal. They are primarily concerned with relationships, especially people they care about. "How can I help others?" is a key question in how they spend their time and energy. Building and nurturing relationships with loved ones, family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers is the guiding principle in their lives.

Research indicates that, in general, men tend to be more inner-directed, while women tend to be more other-directed. There are exceptions, of course, but as a group, men are focused on themselves while women are focused on other people. Men like to build things while women like to build relationships.

This difference in psychological orientation goes a long way toward helping us understand why we women often do such a poor job of taking care of ourselves. We run around filling others' lamps with oil, but forget to fill our own lamps first. Then we wonder why we're often exhausted, frazzled, stressed-out, anxious and/or depressed!

Awareness is the first step toward solving a problem. So the first section of this book is devoted to helping us acknowledge the problem and understand the reasons for it. Chapter 1 looks at how girls are socialized, growing up to be women who put others first. Chapter 2 examines the values women have adopted in the past 50 years, beginning with the feminist movement - leading us to believe that we can have it all - all at once. And Chapter 3 explores the corresponding myth that we can DO it all.

But don't be discouraged. Help is on the way - in Section II, we'll get into solutions for the problem. We'll learn the value of doing nothing, how to play again, how to become more inner-directed, and most important, how to ask for help.

 

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