Mr. President, Don't Forget to Observe Your Limits!
I have to admit that the election of Barack Obama has turned me into a CNN junkie.
For about the past year I have been hungry for information and commentary about this transformational political figure. I sat glued to the TV for most of Tuesday watching the inauguration. As I followed the ceremony and pomp, my heart was full
of many emotions. I felt great pride in my country, and I thought a few, somewhat intellectual thoughts about the significance of this day in our national history. But the idea that I kept returning to was very mundane. How will the president keep up with the relentless pace required of the job? 10 inaugural balls and then he has to work tomorrow? Superhuman demands!
Often regular, non-presidential sort of people begin therapy because they are feeling overwhelmed with the various demands so life. Women in particular are susceptible to this particular kind of burn-out. We attempt to meet the needs of others and sometimes leave ourselves on the back-burner. But what we often forget is that without adequately taking care of ourselves we cannot meet the needs of others. This is a very important lesson to internalize. Neglecting our own needs leads
to subtle (and not so subtle) resentments towards those who depend on us. These resentments can erode the very relationships we care about most. Although many people feel guilty about putting themselves ahead of others, I would argue that this kind of healthy selfishness will nourish you and make you more equipped to meet whatever challenges come your way.
During the presidential campaign Barack Obama was sometimes criticized for taking time out of his unrelenting schedule to play a game of basketball or work out at the gym. I feel like these criticisms are totally ridiculous! It is a sign of psychological health that Mr. Obama took this time for himself. We live in a culture that values work and productivity, but sometimes taking a break from your work is
the most productive. Everyone (even the President) has limits. We only have a finite amount of energy, attention, and resources to spend.
Many of my most high functioning, successful clients have trouble acknowledging their own limits. They understand the concept from an intellectual standpoint, but they have trouble truly believing in their personal boundaries. More importantly, people find it difficult to allow themselves to observe their limits without judgement. If we constantly push ourselves to (and beyond) our maximum, we pay the costs with our emotional and/or physical health, with our relationships, or in some other significant way. Our limits are not fixed--they are flexible and change with our circumstances. While you may be able to attend 10 inaugural balls and stay up until 4 am on one evening in January, this is not something that anyone can do consistently.
No one is superhuman. Not even Mr. Obama. And I hope that he continues to carve out time for himself recognize his limits. He would be modeling healthy behavior and set (yet another) powerful example for over worked, over involved people everywhere.