Use your voice. Speak up. Tell your truth. Stop settling for less. These are some of the messages woven into my book, The Art of Extreme Self Care. This past week, I had an experience related to these messages that touched me deeply.
After a long drive, I arrived thirty minutes early for a medical appointment on Thursday afternoon. I pulled into the lot, parked my car, and closed my eyes to rest before going in. A few minutes later, I opened them to see a beautiful young woman standing outside the front door with a baby in her arms and a small child sitting in a carriage at her feet. I watched for a while as she gently rocked the tiny boy while occasionally smiling at her daughter. I closed my eyes again and when I opened them fifteen minutes later, I noticed the mother still standing by the door looking a bit anxious. I wondered: Is she waiting for someone? Has she been standing there long? Are her children okay?
I decided to go over to check on her. Smiling as I approached, I asked if everything was okay. In a quiet, rather shy voice she explained that she lived almost an hour away and that she was waiting for a ride home from a public transportation car service. A doctor in the building had seen her daughter and they had finished their appointment two hours before. The car hadn’t shown up yet and, each time she called to see where it was, she was told it would be any minute. She went on to explain that she was also told to stand outside so the driver could see her.
I stood looking at her children as I felt anger rise up through my body. “You’ve been waiting here for almost two hours?” I asked in as calm a voice as I could muster. “Yes,” she replied. “This happened the last time, too.” I immediately took out my phone and asked for the car service number. Then, getting a supervisor on the line, I inquired about where the driver was and explained that it was unacceptable to leave a mother with two small children standing outside of a building for so long.
Within a few minutes it was clear from the supervisor’s attitude that this young mother hadn’t been a priority. So, I began to make a few calls to find another car service. Just then, the driver pulled up.
As the woman gathered her carriage and bags, I held her little boy in my arms. Then, as I helped her and the children into the car, she looked at me with a loving smile and thanked me for being so proactive. I stared into her eyes through the window of the car as I watched her pull out of the parking lot thinking: “There but for the grace of God go I.”
I saw myself, many years ago – a woman committed to keeping the peace at any cost, a young girl in an adult body desperately trying to get her needs met without making any trouble. I never rocked the boat, never raised my voice, and rarely asked for what I wanted. Instead, I settled for crumbs when everything inside me screamed for a whole meal.
My reaction to this young mother’s situation reaffirmed the deeper reasons why I feel so inspired to teach the principles of Extreme Self Care. When we learn to speak up for ourselves, for example, we feel compelled to speak up for others who haven’t yet found their voice. When we learn to stop tolerating bad behavior, we have a hard time allowing that same bad behavior to happen to others. When we accept a higher standard of living, we can’t help but want that same standard for others, too. And, most important, when we learn these lessons that raise our level of consciousness, we begin to understand that we are all connected and that we have a responsibility to care for one another.
I pray that the young woman with two small children learned something from my intolerance that day. And I hope her example reminds you that you deserve to be treated with care and respect, too.
Take Action Challenge
This week, speak up when necessary so you develop the skills to care for yourself and others. Look for at least one opportunity a day to use your voice. Offer your opinion during a meeting, tell your partner what you need to feel more supported, or set limits with a friend who drains your energy with her constant complaining. When you learn to speak up in little ways each day, you’ll find that you can count on your voice to be there when you need it most.
This week’s video will inspire you to achieve your dreams at any age (and get off the couch and move your body!). It’s part of a Yahoo video series called “Second Act.” Be sure to check out their other stories, too! You’ll find it here.