You can only call me for 3 reasons!

I spent time today with one of my wonderful individual coaching clients. I love all the shared learning that comes from my work as my clients dare to step into vulnerability, reflection, learning and growth. Today’s call was no exception.  

My sweet, smart and ambitious client is also a go-getter, hard working and deeply nurturing wife, mother, daughter and sister-in-law. And she is exhausted. She describes herself with words that are full of self-judgment and deprecation. Words like “not doing well”, “not in control” and feeling physical symptoms like nausea and jittery.


As we poked, probed around and discovered what and who she perceives is zapping her energy, I was reminded of when my daughter was struggling as a young 20-something. In her struggle she grabbed onto me as her lifeline. She appointed herself the victim and I appointed myself the savior. It wasn’t productive for either of us. It zapped my energy to try to be present and empathetic through all of her drama. Our sometimes-hourly conversations where she gave me play-by-play descriptions of her struggles and challenges began to feel like the sound of static you get when your radio isn’t quite on the station. My attention was distracting her from the work she needed to do to get herself moving forward in the way she most wanted.


One afternoon when I was taking a break from my grueling work schedule to meander a peaceful desert trail at the base of the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico my phone rang. It was my daughter. I said “Hello” and she just began into the litany of that day’s hurdle, frustrations, roadblocks and people who had wronged her. As I listened to her tirade as the victim, I felt any sense of peace or relaxation drain out of me. I felt anger and resentment growing inside me. Anger and resentment at myself for answering the phone.


I don’t know where I got the inspiration, but I heard myself saying this, “I love you. I want the best for you. I know you can make that happen. But from now on you can only call me for three reasons."  

  1. To tell me how you solved a problem.
  2. To share something good.
  3. To ask me how I am doing.

  She was as shocked as I. In hindsight, I realize setting that firm criteria was cathartic for both of us.


Here’s why:


  1. I was able to nurture myself by clarifying how I want to be treated.
  2. She realized I believed in her ability to solve her own problems.
  3. Both of us were able to set ourselves free from self-imposed victimhood.

  Exhaustion and fatigue seem to be common themes with my many clients. I’ve come to realize that just like me, no one has given them permission to set boundaries. In fact, quite the opposite. Somewhere we get the message that we are to give away all our nurturing, kindness, time and empathy to others, and that it is selfish to save even the tiniest bit for ourselves.   Well, I am here to tell you CONCRETELY:  

Yourself First-3


Teaching others how we want to be treated by setting clear boundaries actually models how they too can care for themselves. Doing otherwise is actually enabling them to stay in their drama.


Giving away everything you’ve got is simply the fastest way to fatigue and exhaustion.


Getting energized is best accomplished through creating space where you are able to be, just as you are (i.e. not doing one single thing that starts with the words “I should….” Such as “I should go to the gym”  “I should call my aunt” “I should work on my novel”.

  So who in your life needs the to hear the same guidelines that my wonderful daughter heard many years ago? An employee, friend, sister, co-worker? Practice saying it out loud. Notice a shift in your energy? I thought so!

  Now say it to them and regain balance, clarity and peace. That my friend, is nurturing yourself first.