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Filtering by Tag: Selfcare

How to Honor Yourself in a Relationship

Ana Polanco

As I think back to all the stages of my life, one of the key lessons I have learned is how to set boundaries for myself in any relationship. When I really like someone personally or professionally, I tend to go out of my way for them. While this may seem harmless on its surface, even generous, the truth is that those constant over extensions came at a price: meeting my own goals.

Giving feels so good. Some of us have it in our temperament to give. Others have been taught to put themselves second by their community. I often got verbal and physical signals from my family and my community that mothers, sisters, daughters, and aunts come second. Fathers, brothers, sons and uncles come first. Growing up Catholic, I was taught that the meek shall inherent the earth. As a school girl I took that literally and often gave up everything for others in my family and even for strangers without boundaries. Hearing and seeing these messages overtime gave me a warped sense of what giving means in the context of my own life.

As an adult, I had weak boundaries and resulted in a lost expression of who I wanted to be in the world. I put everyone first-- social justice advocacy, my family’s needs, my ex-husband’s needs, my friend’s needs, and my work and volunteerism. Being like this led to real problems for me – health issues, exhaustion, unbalanced relationships, frustration, and a muted self-expression. Until I was fed up.

In the last ten years, I began to set boundaries in different places of my life. I began to protect my time and see it as my most precious commodity. A divorce from my husband, breakups with friends and deep shifts in my career, created space to find out who I wanted to be. While these changes were hard and even at times deeply painful, I grew to know myself again as I learned to trust my own thoughts, feelings, intuition and spirituality.

This silent space also showed me how depleted I was and how much farther I wanted to be in my own personal goals. So I began a journey to defend and protect my time vigorously and to begin lifting my voice up again so I could once again become visible, find genuine relationships and grow those relationships from a place of grounding.

People often ask me if I have regrets. I have no regrets about the past. Every moment led me to this more authentic, bold version of me. As I look back at all those relationships, I hope these tips will make your relationships with the people you love and care for more meaningful.  It’s not always about walking away. Sometimes it’s just about defining who you are today and sharing it with the world:

Identify Your Values

Values make up part of the engine that is our core belief system. Before, during and after a relationship, check your values. Values help us make important decisions about what matters the most at any stage of life. While values are flexible and can change, there are some values you may not want to live without. When you think about a potential partner, don’t compare them to past partners. Compare yourself and them to your own values. (See exercise below)

Be Seen. Be Visible.

Being visible might seem like a strange action to highlight. After all, the whole point of the relationship is that you’re getting to know someone. In the past, I have made myself small in a relationship. When you’re really into someone, sometimes you just get in this cycle of pleasing them and forgetting about your own needs. Your partner can’t get to know you if they can’t see your personality and learn about your needs. Figuring out if this is the right partner requires Conocimiento (mutuality) and for that you have to be visible. Let them see you.

Break out the Financial Spreadsheets.      

We all have spreadsheets about the people we are dating, whether it’s a literal one or a checklist in your head. Often that spreadsheet is based on things you’ve seen your partner do. But if you are thinking about living together or getting married, serious value based questions are key. Most people don’t talk about each other’s finances, as if the magical fairy is just going erase your financial past.  The truth is that most serious relationships break up over money. The deeper truth is that most relationships break up over what to do with the money. Your finances and how you manage may be key indicators of life circumstances, accountability, dreams, interests, daily habits and so forth. Having conversations about debt, financial dreams and goals can only bring you closer to your partner. Have conversations together before you get hitched about your individual and shared financial vision. If you’re single, have this conversation with yourself.  

Learn to have Empowering Conversations

One of the hardest things that individuals face in a relationship is fear of rejection.  Fear of not being accepted for who we are is scary, especially when we are really invested in the other person. And yet, silence is even scarier. Part of the secret is to face those challenges from a place of curiosity. When a major hurdle comes up, try asking questions that empower your partner to share the process and values behind their actions. Asking what or how questions help the other person share their values and new perspectives.

Your Turn: Hot Air Balloon Exercise


Here’s a short exercise you can do to identify your values and your relationship. Start by identifying five values for yourself. Imagine you were in a hot air balloon with five of your most precious values. Your perfect partner came along with their key five values. The only way your partner can get in the hot air balloon with you is if the both you had to ditch all but one of your values. You agree to do so. What would value would be left for you? For them? What information does this give you about yourself? Your current or future partner?

What can you learn from 2014 to make 2015 your best year yet?

Librada Estrada

Sunset pictureDoes this scenario sound familiar? You worked diligently on something and, without a second thought, moved onto the next thing when the task was complete? Then some time later you found yourself having to repeat that task or experiencing similar things and having a sense of déjà vu. Or maybe you even wish you could recall what you did the first time so that you could change your behavior or actions and not “reinvent the wheel?” I used to be like that, always moving from one project or event without reviewing what I could learn from the experience. I was doing this in all areas of my life. Then I started working with a great coach, Christine, and since 2009 I have made it a point to do an annual review of my life.

She shared with me a one-page questionnaire that I found very useful. Although we aren’t working together anymore, I now use a similar form in my coaching practice  because the experience is so valuable. With less than a month left in 2014, I just completed reflecting on the year.

Doing so helps me to focus on what went well, what did not work, behaviors and habits that I want to continue, in addition to identifying lessons learned and clarifying where I want to create action in my life. Even before the New Year kicks off, I have begun to craft a mindset to achieve the goals I want. I intentionally start putting the building blocks into place early. What do you do to start the upcoming year centered?

The question that sets the stage for me is considering what will be my theme(s) for the upcoming year. Having a theme keeps me grounded in the bigger picture of what I want to achieve and it is powerful because I use it as a checkpoint for making decisions. It is useful in helping determine what it means to me. It is different from a resolution because I focus on how I want to be rather than what I want to do. Over the years I have selected words, songs (I have a dream by Abba), and colors (purple!).

One year I decided “Say Yes” as my theme. I defined “Say Yes” as being adventurous by giving myself permission to try new things, accept opportunities even though I might fail, and to not overthink. I am a planner at heart and that year I learned to be more comfortable with spur of the moment decisions, to be flexible about the planning process and speaking up more often. More importantly, I learned to celebrate mistakes and failures because I was consciously willing to risk and stretch outside of my comfort zone.

As 2014 draws to a close, I encourage you to celebrate what you have accomplished and to begin preparing for 2015. For me, it included launching this website with Ana, having more honest conversations with my family, saying no more often, speaking in front of my largest audience, teaching in Spanish, and working with repeat customers. As in my personal life, professionally I was reminded that I cannot be all things to all people and that I need to work on saying no even more.

My themes for 2015 will be Focused Expansion and Growth. What will be yours?

Three steps to get ready for 2015 are:

Carve out time to reflect. Find a quiet place and take some time to consider what happened over the year and what you want for the coming year.

Be honest with yourself. You have accomplished so much more than you think! Once you acknowledge your successes, you will realize how much more you have in your favor. And, we all have room for improvement. How do you want to be different and what actions will you take to make that change?

Be creative and reflect in a way that is meaningful to you. Journal, speak with a friend/significant other or draw it in pictures. Select a song, book, poem, mantra and/or picture that is important to you.

Your turn: What do you to to reboot for the new year? What do you want to be constant in 2015?

Si tú quieres, to receive a copy of the form I use, send an email to with Year in Review Form Request as the subject line. I am happy to share.

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Do “Good Daughters” put themselves first?

Librada Estrada

How often do you put yourself first?  Several years ago, when I was first asked how often I put myself first, I automatically answered often since I thought I did. I enjoyed my existing roles and activities related to being a mother, wife, employee, volunteer, etc. However, when I examined that question a little deeper, I realized that although I liked what I did, many of the activities were in service of others and not necessarily myself. Does this sound familiar to you?

We make time for our families, friends, jobs, staff, community, and many other roles and activities. Yet, when we look at where we are on our to do list we either are not on it or are so far down the line that we don’t notice or recognize ourselves on the list.

I began to think about my state of being while doing things and I noticed two sets of patterns. While doing for others or fulfilling responsibilities I would do them and I could identify points when I was not at my best. Instead, I felt overstressed, overcommitted, too tired, lacked energy, was unfocused and felt burdened. How this affected my relationships is that I would be quicker to worry, have a short temper, be disengaged or not show up 100%.

Self-care is selfless

When I reflected on what was different when I put myself first I realized I was willing to do more for others, have more energy to give and share, as well as produce outcomes of higher quality. I recognized to better serve others, I needed to put myself first and that was a thought that was not pleasant.

My initial reaction was lots of negative self-talk. I thought that I was being selfish, taking time from others, or that it would require too much time from an already busy schedule. I also told myself that others would think I was not willing to lend a hand, wasn’t willing to be of service or that I wasn’t spending my money wisely.

I realized that part of my reaction was due to my upbringing. Being the second youngest in a family of eight, I was the last one of my siblings to have children. Therefore, my family expected me to babysit, run errands or help out at our family restaurant in the summer and on weekends. I did not challenge this expectation because “good daughters” don’t ask questions. I learned to pitch in at all times. I was a people pleaser. I did not want others to think negatively of me, especially family or friends. When I finally recognized that I was allowing other people’s opinions to influence my actions, I became aware of how unhealthy it was for me since I wasn’t taking care of myself.

Five Ways to Put You First

By embracing this new concept, I learned a few things about putting myself first and different ways to do it. Si tú quieres, here are five ways you can put yourself first:

  • Speak up. Sometimes I would wait and see if others would offer to help or step up. When they didn’t I was the one doing it all or feeling angry with them for not offering assistance. If you don’t speak up others won’t know what you need.
  • Before, I would respond to a request with a yes or no (rarely!). It was automatic. I have learned to negotiate on the deadline, the amount of work, help the person identify someone else or offer to delegate. The point here is that you can be a resource and respond in more than just two ways.
  • I used to think that me time involved 1/2-day activities, getting away from work or home. Sure, I want that sometimes and the reality is that you don’t need lots of time. You need to be intentional and find a space or activity that will allow you to unplug or unwind from every day life and recharge your energy level and can be as little as 15 minutes or more.
  • Define how. I used to think moving me up the list meant I had to do it alone or away from others. I have learned that there are times when I wanted to be by myself and other times I look forward to having intimate gatherings with friends. There is no right way and no one way. For you, that might be chatting with a friend for a few minutes, enjoying a good cup of coffee slowly, completing errands without rushing, taking a quick catnap or exercising. You get to define what that means for you!
  • Decide when. Do you know when you need to focus on you? Are you aware when you need to take a break from your to do list? Pay attention to your body, energy level, the thoughts that run through you head or even how committed you are to doing a particular activity.

Making time for you is as important as doing for others. When you give yourself permission to nurture and recharge, you also give others the opportunity to do the same.

“Never forget that your body belongs to you, it doesn’t belong to the state, or to your partner, it belongs to you. In whatever medium you start to realize this you will start to recognize your rights. And then accompany other women that perhaps are in a vulnerable position to realize their rights and ownership in every aspect and moment of their lives.” Lydia Cacho – Journalist & Social Activist

What is possible when you make time to take care of yourself? Tell us how putting yourself first has changed your life or how you do it.