This week on The Fire Inside Her join Diane Schroeder as she takes you on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Unveil the significance of prioritizing self-care and learn practical tools to navigate life’s demands with resilience and compassion. Hear her personal anecdotes and profound insights that show her transformative journey of creating a “bigger cup” through prioritizing self-care. Embrace the power of setting boundaries, diving into authenticity, and practicing self-acceptance. Whether you’re seeking to enhance your leadership skills, improve your relationships, or simply prioritize your own well-being, this episode offers invaluable wisdom to help you unleash your inner fire and lead with authenticity.
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Diane Schroeder [00:00:00]:
Welcome to The Fire Inside Her, the podcast where we explore the incredible stories of individuals who have discovered their inner fire on their journey to authenticity. I'm your host, Diane Schroeder, and I am so grateful that you are here.
Diane Schroeder [00:00:23]:
Imagine a person always there for everyone else. Their team, their family, their coworkers, their friends, you name it. This person's cup is quite small. And it's always empty because they give so much to everyone else. They're always the first to arrive, the last to leave. They say yes to every request, and they always put themselves last.
Diane Schroeder [00:00:55]:
And then one day, something changes. This person realizes that they can't keep pouring from an empty cup. They realized that they were running on fumes, physically and emotionally drained. Their health starts deteriorating and their relationships are strained. They have neglected themselves for so long that they barely recognize the person in the mirror.
Diane Schroeder [00:01:25]:
Then this person makes the courageous decision to get a bigger cup. But here's the challenge. You can't find or buy a bigger cup. You have to create one. And this process is challenging. It will piss you off, and it's quite uncomfortable. However, if you take the time and put in the effort to do the work, to prioritize yourself first, you will be a better leader, employee, partner, human, parent, sibling. You get my drift. I believe that it's easy to look at self-care, self-maintenance, time alone, or whatever you want to call it through a scarcity mindset. There's not enough time. Everyone else is more important than me. And it's just a luxury that is not affordable.
Diane Schroeder [00:02:24]:
But what if I suggest to you that self-care isn't a privilege reserved for the wealthy or more important? What if we looked at self-care through an infinite mindset. But wait, Diane, seriously, I am too busy. I have to serve my people and my community and my family. Who else is going to step up and do it? Look, I agree 100%. And I will also challenge that in order to serve to the best of your ability, don't you think you should be at the best of your ability? That is the magic, my friend, of self-care, and that's what we're going to focus on today.
Diane Schroeder [00:03:13]:
But first, I want to start with my dad. We are coming up on the 4-year anniversary of his transition from this world to the next, and I really miss him. And it's interesting because I was thinking about why self-care became so important to me. Why did it become so passionate? And it goes back to my dad. He was a little rough around the edges. He had the deck stacked against him before he was 6 months old. His father, a pilot in World War II, was killed in action when my dad was only 4 months old. My grandma did the best she could with the resources she had, which were pretty limited in 1945. She was a single mom with a college degree, and she relied on her family to help her out until she got remarried.
Diane Schroeder [00:04:10]:
Dad and his stepdad didn't exactly see eye to eye. So, naturally, my dad rebelled and grew into what some might call a wild child. All of that changed when he met my mom and they started a family. He got a job as a machinist, where he spent the next 40 years working. And during that time, he also joined the local volunteer fire department. He fell in love with the fire service. It quickly became a family affair. Mom helped with a lot of the administrative items, and dad spent as much time at the firehouse as he did at his normal job. And my little brother and I started spending time at the firehouse so we could spend time with dad. He loved training. He loved the men and women that worked for him, and he was beyond proud when they left the volunteer nest to get hired on a career department.
Diane Schroeder [00:05:13]:
Dad eventually worked his way up to chief. And after 32 years, when the department decided it was time to hire a paid chief, they didn't hire him. And just like that, he was retired from the fire service. And during all those years of giving, giving, and giving, he neglected himself. His health started to deteriorate slowly. And over time, he could no longer overcome the health issues. And that's when he passed away.
Diane Schroeder [00:05:43]:
I share this story for a few reasons. Number 1, when we are in the thick of life, it's easy to believe that we are the linchpin for life to keep working, which is what happened to my dad. He didn't know how to stop. It wasn't always this way. He used to have all kinds of fun hobbies. But gradually, they became memories. And number 2, this might be a spoiler alert, but we're all going to die. And if I'm being honest, because of the profession of firefighting, I'm likely going to die sooner than some. But dying isn't the tragedy of this story. I absolutely miss my dad. But I believe the true tragedy of this story is how he chose to live. And I am confident that if we take a few moments, you can think of the people in your life, or maybe yourself, who never stop giving, never stop working, never or rarely take time for themselves, and maybe you're the one running on an empty cup.
Diane Schroeder [00:06:52]:
It's okay. I'm not judging you. But I do have a question. How's it going? The good news is that it's not too late. There are tools that you can use to build more capacity in your life, to create a self-care routine that creates a bigger cup.
Diane Schroeder [00:07:12]:
I remember when I first graduated from the fire academy, it was very important that I had the right tools for the job. And so, as my academy mates were loading up their bunker gear with all the fancy tools in the moment, I had asked my dad what was the most important tool that I should carry with me. And he looked up from above the newspaper that he was reading, and he said, get some mentholatum, and stick it in your bunker gear. It's really important that you use that on some of the calls you're going to go on. And I was like, mentholatum? What are you talking about? Long story short, mentholatum is a great tool to respond to calls where there are some smells that you just can't get out of your head. And I've used it. I've always used it for my entire career, and it came in very helpful for some of those calls. I often joke that if people could smell what crime scenes, and some medical calls, and stuff like that really are that shows wouldn't be as popular, especially CSI back in the day.
Diane Schroeder [00:08:21]:
Anyway, so when it comes to self-care, there are several tools that can set you up for success to live the life you want and to build that capacity. Your tools may not be the same. They could be different. But I do have a few foundational tools that you need to create a bigger cup.
Diane Schroeder [00:08:40]:
And the first is the word no. No is a sentence. No is powerful. No is your right. No doesn't need an apology. No is a great place to start in setting boundaries. Because if you're saying yes to everyone, you say no to yourself. If you always say yes, you're always going to be asked to do more. And I am guilty of this. I would always raise my hand to do more because I was afraid that I wouldn't be liked or accepted where I had to continually prove myself. I'm also guilty of being the person that acknowledges the people who say yes to me and asking them to do more. The beauty of no is that it sets a boundary, and boundaries are one of the best skills to focus on when working on a self-care strategy. Setting boundaries will help you build capacity in your life. And the more capacity you have, you have more time for yourself and the ability to add more tools.
Diane Schroeder [00:09:45]:
Boundaries are not easy to set. It takes time and, like lifting weights, the more you do it, the easier it gets. But how do you know what boundaries to set? It's an inside job. You have to clean up your internal boundaries first. How do you talk to yourself? A good therapist or coach can help get you started. But you need to get quiet and listen to your authentic self, trust your gut, and listen to your intuition. You can always set a firm boundary and then back it off a little bit.
Diane Schroeder [00:10:20]:
I like to think of boundaries as the shoreline. We know the ocean will always come to the shore. Depending on the time of day, the season, or the moon cycle, the water can come up higher or lower, but the ocean is always there. And your boundaries can be the same. They can become more flexible over time, but you need to know where they are. Now listening to your authentic self is one thing, but showing the world your authentic self can be quite terrifying. And this is the next tool to add to your self-care toolbox. Be authentic, be you, be genuine, be vulnerable. And being vulnerable is not easy. I struggle with it all the time.
Diane Schroeder [00:11:05]:
When I first got promoted, I was sent to work on a fire truck. And I spent most of my career on a fire engine, and the difference between the two is the fire engines have water and hoses, and the fire trucks have the big ladders on them and are more of a giant toolbox. In the organization that I worked in, I was really nervous to be assigned to a very busy truck company. And my crew was senior, and they were really great. 2 of the guys could have been my dad, and 1 of them was an academy mate. So, it was a little awkward. I was brand new to leadership. I was really nervous. And during the 1st shift, I pulled them all in the office, and I sat down to give them my expectation talk, which part of me wishes I had recorded because I'm sure, it was pretty basic. And at the end of the talk, I told them that it was my responsibility to make sure that they went home safe after every shift, and that safety not only included physical safety, but emotional safety as well. And that I hadn't been on a truck in several years, and it was going to take me time to learn it. And I was going to need them to help me.
Diane Schroeder [00:12:20]:
I was very vulnerable. And the senior firefighter looked at me and said, that's okay, LT. You're not going to learn it in a day, and we will help you. We've got you. That conversation really set up our crew for success, and they really helped me to be more comfortable being my authentic self and finding my way to being an authentic leader. It's still a journey, and sometimes I would get stuck in potholes, but being your authentic self is really important. My crew helped me feel safe, not just physically from the job, but psychologically. And I was able to let some of my armor down to continue to be my authentic self.
Diane Schroeder [00:13:11]:
When I was with my first crew as an officer, I was me. And it was a little scary when I was outside of the bubble or when I left the crew and continued to promote up. But that's the part about building capacity. And if you're authentic, you're always stretching your edges, growing, and expanding. It's also the beauty of creating a self-care routine and putting yourself first. You get to know who you are. And when you're put in challenging situations, you can be yourself. Some people will like you and some will not, and that's okay. What other people think of you is none of your business.
Diane Schroeder [00:13:49]:
When you give yourself permission to be authentic, you're also giving the people in your orbit permission to be authentic. And that's when the alchemy of self-care and leadership come together to create the final tool I want to share with you today, acceptance. Accept yourself. Accept that you are messy, imperfect, and you have made mistakes. Accept that you have failed, and you've done stupid shit. Most importantly, accept that you are worthy, and that you deserve the love and attention that you freely give to everyone else. It's easy to hold on to the reminders of times when we didn't show up as our best selves, personally, professionally, as parents, partners, or as employees. And when that cup runs out, the fuse gets short, or we run out of capacity, it's nearly impossible to handle the curve balls that life will throw at us.
Diane Schroeder [00:14:49]:
It's also easy to numb out with booze or shopping, unhealthy relationships, hyper independence, perfectionism, and people pleasing, but that's not a sustainable solution for the long term. Acceptance of yourself, that you are worthy, that you add value to whatever situation you are in and that's different than fitting in. Being your authentic self means you might not fit in, and that's okay. Accepting that you add value and can show up every day to do your personal best is the long game. That's the sustainable solution. But it's not just acceptance of yourself. It is acceptance of others, of your people, your community, finding a space to accept the humanness in others.
Diane Schroeder [00:15:41]:
And finally, acceptance is love. Learning to love yourself, love your people, love the community that you serve doesn't mean that you will always like them, but you have to love them. A few months ago, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to participate in a staff ride with the US Forest Service at Gettysburg. So, here's the deal, my friend. We all have our small cups. And we pour and pour, giving everything, we have to others, often forgetting to refill our own cups. But here's the thing. We have the power to change that.
Diane Schroeder [00:16:21]:
We can create a bigger cup. And it starts with prioritizing self-care. It starts with setting boundaries, being authentic, and accepting ourselves and others. These are tools that allow us to create a bigger cup that can hold more, give more, and serve more. So, my challenge to you is this, to take these tools and nurture your self-care, and watch your cup grow. Remember, when your cup is full, you have the capacity to lead with strength, compassion, and resilience. In the end, it's not about the size of the cup you start with. It's about the size of the cup you become. And I hope that your journey to building a bigger cup is filled with self-care, fulfillment, and the ability to lead and serve with your heart.
Diane Schroeder [00:17:18]:
Thank you for giving the valuable gift of your time and listening to The Fire Inside Her podcast. Speaking of value, one of the most common potholes we fall into on the journey to authenticity is not recognizing our value. So, I created a workbook. It's all about value. Head on over to thefireinsideher.com/value to get your free workbook that will help you remember your value. Until next time, my friend.