I bought myself a ring this year with the word ‘oui’, French for ‘yes’. As I tried it on and turned my hand to look at it in different directions, I noticed that viewed from the opposite direction, it appeared to spell the word ‘me’. That’s when it hit me: my motto for 2017 would be “oui for me”. In other words, I would make it a priority to make decisions based on what was best for me, not only for everyone else.
Women are trained to prioritize others. We put our friends and family members needs ahead of our own because that’s what we were brought up thinking we should do. This is particularly apt this month of May that contains Mother’s Day.
My mother was a classic supermom. I still don’t know how she got so much done each day. She was a wife, mother, daughter, friend, volunteer leader, unofficial manager of my dad’s early derm practice, organizer of our school projects, party planner of our birthdays and get togethers with referring doctors, and an honors law student. And that was all before I graduated elementary school. And she wasn’t alone. It’s no wonder that patients brought up by these super women often come into my office saying they feel guilty taking the time and money for cosmetic work for themselves. These are the same women for whom time having injections or a brief respite in our relaxation area waiting for their topical anesthetic to kick in is the biggest break they’ve had for themselves in recent memory. One patient recently told me she enjoys her ‘needles and a nap’ time.
I am not suggesting becoming egocentric. By taking care of ourselves emotionally, physically and financially, we feel better and stronger. That stability makes it easier to handle whatever stressors life throws at us, our families and our jobs. Remember the safety instructions at the start of every airplane flight: ‘in case of emergency put your mask on first before helping others’. Truly taking care of ourselves is what allows us to help others best. It also makes us better role models for those around us.
So what does ‘oui for me’ mean in practical terms? For me it has been a reminder to turn off the computer even if I haven’t answered every email so I can get to sleep and wake up well rested. I love what I do – seeing patients, teaching, writing, consulting. But there are only 24 hours in a day. So saying ‘yes’ for me means saying ‘no’ to writing that extra chapter or giving that extra lecture as a favor to an organization or a colleague, when I know I don’t really have the time to do it. This year, when setting up my itineraries for work travel, I blocked a few hours to see friends and experience the city or town I was visiting, whether just a stroll or seeing an art exhibit. The infusion of positive energy has allowed me to get more out of my meetings and to return home refreshed rather than run down.
Being run down all the time is a classic sign of not saying yes to you. It is common knowledge that being run down predisposes us to illness and injury. In addition, in keeping with skin cancer awareness month, May is a good time to think about when you last had your routine check ups. For me it’s time to schedule my annual mammogram and ultrasound and, this year, a colonoscopy. I’ll also make the calls to see everyone from my dentist to my gynecologist. Look at the calendar and figure out when you last saw yours. Time flies very quickly and a year or more can go by in a blink of an eye. We set reminders for work deadlines, family birthdays, and carpool. Set calendar reminders for things you need to do for yourself.
The other part of this equation of “oui for me” is to think about what will make you feel better each day when you look in the mirror. Do you look in the mirror and see dark circles under your eyes that just don’t cover with make up? Are you starting to see your Great Aunt’s hands attached to your arms? and what about getting dressed in the morning are your clothes making you feel fat? For me maintaining my filler to keep my face from hollowing allows me to go to work with minimal to no make up. Having coolsculpting to reduce the bulges of fat that appeared after menopause that weren’t going away with exercise has made my life easier whether I’m getting dressed to go out or packing my suitcase for a meeting. I know my clothes will fit – no spanks required. These little time savers and confidence boosters have repercussions throughout the day.
How we present ourselves affects not only how we see ourselves, but also how others see us. Botox for the frown lines has been shown to help patients with depression both from the direct feedback to the patient who is no longer frowning and from the indirect feedback of other people. I will never forget one of my first combination Botox and Restylane patients many years ago who came to see me because everyone told her she looked angry and anxious but she insisted she didn’t. On exam at rest, she had deep lines between her brows with mountains of skin between them and the sides of her mouth were downturned into a frown. After a year of treatment with Botox to relax the muscles pulling her brows together and those pulling her mouth downward and Restylane to fill and lift the residual lines, she returned with wonderful news. Her boss had given her a promotion and a raise, because he explained, her work was always excellent but now her ‘attitude’ had improved. It may not be fair or right, but clearly appearances matter.
So this month of May and throughout the year, say ‘oui for me’. Remember to show appreciation to yourself as well as others. Small bits of kindness to yourself will help you feel better, look better and do better.