“Be there for others, but never leave yourself behind.” Dodinsky

My very first financial coaching client was in 2001. It was a guy; an investment banker in his early thirties. He could sit in a boardroom and negotiate mergers and acquisition transactions worth billions. However, when it came to managing his own personal finances, that was an entirely different story.

In a nutshell, he sucked at it! He did a poor job of saving; of planning; of saying “no” to some of his family members.

How, you may wonder, can someone not have the ability to transfer what they do well for others to their own situation – especially given his business acumen and financial and intellectual resources? Quite easily, actually!

Although the particular details that drive this paradox vary from person to person, this contradiction is not as uncommon as you might imagine.

In fact, I bet this paradox is playing itself out in your life, right now, to some degree. Maybe with regards to money; maybe not. But it can be attributed to one word: self-care.

The airplane metaphor…again

You know how when the airplane is taxing for takeoff, one of the safety tips you’re given is to put the oxygen mask on yourself first in case of an emergency? Well, rightfully so, no one ever views the instruction to make sure you’re able to breath before you attempt to help others as selfish. It simply makes sense; it’s logical.

Why, than, is this logical act of self-care deemed reasonable in a moment of crisis – a potentially life-threatening one at that. Yet believed to be selfish, by many, when there isn’t an emergency.

Step away from the airplane metaphor, and you realize that this is an important question to ponder because your answer provides clues for how you are managing your life – even your choices around money.

For the sake of privacy, let’s call my former coaching client Jack. Jack had fallen into the same trap you and I find ourselves in from time to time: conflating self-care with being selfish. (If you haven’t noticed, it’s quite the cultural phenomenon!)

In my client’s case, the emotional baggage of being the first in his family to graduate college (an Ivy one, to boot); to work in New York City on Wall Street, at a fancy-dancy investment bank; to make a lot of money by many measures, but especially in light of his family’s background (he grew up financially poor), all contributed to and influenced how he approached managing his personal finances.

He took care of EVERYBODY! His grandmother who raised him, and many of his other relatives, too. Because of the sacrifices they made for him to get to and through college, he felt a great sense of obligation and responsibility for their well-being and prioritized taking care of their financial needs and wants over his own.

(And you wonder why I harp on the notion that “managing money” goes way beyond the dollars and cents…)

Because Jack didn’t want to appear to be selfish and self-focused…and ungrateful:

  • He didn’t have any boundaries. He had a hard time saying “no” to family member’s requests. (We eventually got him to focus on just financially supporting his grandmother.)
  • There was always something to feel guilty about. If it wasn’t guilt about saying “no” to his family, it was about the condition of his finances: often overdrawn, little savings, little spent for his own pleasure and comfort, no financial game-plan for the future.
  • He missed the opportunity to practice self-care as a form of self-love.

He was there for others, but he left himself behind.

The power of self-care

Examples of self-care are plentiful. And while Webster’s definition of it is simply “to care for oneself,” I’d like to expand that to: what you do daily to nurture yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and, yes, financially.

How are you intentionally tending to all aspects of your well-being? What are your rituals?

For proof that this stuff matters, take a look at this ripple-effect: how you feel about yourself affects how you handle money; how you handle money is reflected in your habits; your habits impact your degree of financial success. Rinse. Repeat.

But to create a self-care ritual that feels like it is “yours,” you have to first define what self-care looks and feels like for you. To get you started…

  • Have you addressed any confusion about what is selfish to you vs. what is a reflection of self-love?
  • What will you do purposefully to ensure you show up, more days than not, able to operate at maximum capacity because you are “full?” (The concept of paying yourself first isn’t limited to the habit of saving.)
  • What will it take for you to view self-care not just as something you do on occasion as a form of pampering, but as something you practice on an every day basis?

I suspect these questions will prompt others…

And lest you think your self-care ritual is all about you, it’s not. The truth is that there are quantifiable and qualitative ramifications when you don’t view how you manage your money through this important lens. When you don’t, it hurts your well-being as an individual; which, in turn, hurts your family and friends; which, in turn, impacts your community at large.


Can you imagine if we all did a better job of not conflating self-love with being selfish? Imagine the impact that would have in your home and beyond!

Can you even imagine if everyone (a) was taught the power of self-care, in general, and (b) practiced it as it pertained to how they manage their choices around money, too?

Can you imagine if we each created self-care rituals that enabled us to live out Dodinsky’s quote: “Be there for others, but never leave yourself behind.”

Personally, I believe that what will fuel the next financial revolution will be an emphasis on self-care…on more self-love. I don’t see how you and I can do an excellent job of being our brother’s and sister’s keeper without it.


p.s. February 27th is the date for our next The Comfort Circle™ event. Are you joining us?

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