For most women, serving is a natural tendency and something that gives us pleasure and adds meaning to our lives. What many of us learned however, is sacrifice, not true service. Half a century after the June Cleaver model was popular, girls are still frequently getting a message that says females should give to others first, not make a ruckus, and present an image of flawlessness in our work and personal lives. Grown women playing out this advice to be people-pleasing and perfect, create stress in their lives and sometimes find that they’re living for a set of standards that have little meaning to them.

Self-service fosters service to others

If women truly want to serve — and I believe we do — one of our first steps needs to be to reduce our tendency to give ourselves up while giving to others. Our belief systems tend to say that it’s “selfish” to put ourselves first, but that’s simply not true. Women who neglect themselves — by eating poorly, rarely exercising, and missing out on needed sleep, for instance — diminish their capacity to fully give to others, shortchanging both themselves and those they serve in the process. Eventually this false or fear-based servitude plays out in attitudes that wear the name of “victim” or “martyr” and we end up resenting the people we’ve been determined to serve.

Healthy service is about being first a loving servant to your own needs. It doesn’t require self-obsession or self-centeredness — these are in fact often the slingshot behaviors that we can get into after sacrificing too much — but does call on us to make sure we’re up near the top of our own priority list. We must take time for ourselves. If you’re scared or can’t see how you can possibly fit it into an already jam-packed day, start with 10 minutes devoted to yourself (5 in the morning, 5 at night). Spend 600 seconds today focused on caring for yourself with the same love, attentiveness, and compassion that you so easily and naturally extend to others. Direct your serving heart inward and nurture the woman who so needs a regular dose of love and caring.

Self-service is honorable and necessary. It keeps us happier, healthier, and more connected to our inner divinity. Begin to make self-service a habit. You’ll not only be giving to yourself and making you a more joyful servant to others, you’ll be showing today’s young girls that they don’t need to sacrifice themselves to give the love that so naturally flows from their hearts.

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

~ Goethe