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Overextended: to extend, reach, or expand beyond a proper, safe, or reasonable point. To obligate (oneself) to more activities, work, etc., than one has time for or can accomplish well.

Overextended. That’s a word that would reasonably describe me for most of my life. For as long as I can remember I’ve been someone who rooted for the underdog, made friends with less than friendly people, and tried to make the dreams of everyone around me come true. What a task to take upon oneself! I can remember as early as being 3 years old, telling my grandmother not to worry because God had sent me to her to help her be happy.

My grandmother had lost her mom about 2 years before I was born. She subsequently plunged into a crippling depression. I was told that in the months following my great-grandmother’s passing, my grandmother had trouble eating, had lost her motivation, and had to be given b12 shots just to have a reasonable amount of energy to make it through the day. I’m not sure what prompted me to make the declaration that I was sent to her to make her happy. But what I do know is that I devoted my life in attempts to make her proud and to bring her joy. The funny thing is, she never asks that of me. She said she was always proud of me and was happy just knowing I was in her life. I didn’t have to do anything extra.

Have you ever found your self being the one that was always doing “extra”? Going the extra mile, doing the extra thing, extra, extra, extra…Have you be so consumed with the real, and imaginary, needs of everyone else that you neglected your needs? Trust me, I understand. Here are a few things that help me take my hero cape off for a moment, begin to put my needs first, and just…be.

1. I decided that I do have a choice.

My grandmother always assured me that she loved me unconditionally. It was me who made the choice to go through life always trying to do more, be more, as if I could make her happy, or somehow earn more of her love. Both were impossible. You can’t make anyone happy. And I didn’t have to earn her love because I already had it. We have a choice in how we live our lives. Whether someone asks something of us, or not, we have the power to approve or deny their request. Oh, that’s tweetable! And understand that saying no doesn’t make you a bad person.

2. I decided to eliminate the “shoulds”.

Alot of what was driving my overextending tendencies was the very loud voice of my inner critic that kept telling me what I should being doing. “You should be doing more, don’t you see they need you?”. “You should be a better friend. It’s not unreasonable to stay up until 3am to listen to her complain about the same thing you gave her previous advice about (to which she did not listen)”.” You should sacrifice more of your time and energy!” It became suffocating. So I decided to eliminate the “shoulds” and give myself permission to have peace.

3. I decided to prioritize myself.

One thing that truly helped me was the decision to make myself the priority. Not in a selfish way, but in a way that honored my being and my needs. I realized that if I was sleep deprived, irritable, resentful, and unfocused, I was no help to anyone. And plus, I needed me. I needed a large dose of the compassion, love, and attention I was giving away so freely. So I put myself on the top of the list. I filled my cup, and I shared what overflowed.

Every tool that I listed above started with one thing. A decision. My decision. I decided I had a choice. I decided to eliminate the shoulds. I decided to make my health and well being top priority. I decided. What decisions have you made to stop overextending yourself so that you can show up for yourself and what really matters? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Keep choosing you, I’m cheering you on!

Love, Crystal Clay

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