Anne Lamott has some unusual dating advice.
About 6 years ago, she was overwhelmed. She was in her sixties, helping her son raise her grandson, and she was in full people-pleasing mode…
Taking responsibility for everyone, making sure everyone had what they needed, making sure everyone was happy.
She was talking to her older brother one day, telling him how exhausted she was. He tried, presumably, to be reassuring by telling her one of those things that nearly all of us have heard at one point or another: that God never gives you more than you can handle.
She just about flipped her lid.
She got up, got in her car, and drove. She screamed and shouted and raged at life for half an hour. She hated everyone, everyone needed something from her.
Then she called a trusted friend, who listened to her and knew exactly what to say, and she was feeling better by the time she drove back home. Something had to change. And she knew what she needed to do:
She had to stop putting everyone else first, and start looking after herself.
Anne embarked on a program of radical self-care.
I did three months of this radical self-love, of being my own priority, of letting everybody else take the leftovers, of putting myself first, of structuring my days around what would make me happiest, what I needed to do, and what I hoped to do, and what I loved to do. And then I would find time for everybody else.”
The punchline is this:
Three months to the DAY after she started her commitment to radical self-care, she met the man who would become her husband.
Is radical self-care the ultimate dating advice?
From my perspective, it’s definitely up there! It’s the Pleasure Principle in action.
That’s because something profound shifts when we start taking really good care of ourselves.
Let’s find out how we can use it to create magic in our own lives…
Love in the Olden Days
Writer Anne Lamott attracted the love of her life in her sixties by shifting her focus away from pleasing others and onto pleasing herself.
The story is even better in her own words, and you can hear Anne tell it to Tim Ferriss on his podcast.
I love Anne’s story because it’s so different from the story we’ve been sold, this idea that if we want to be loved we’ve got to start hustling.
We’ve got to figure out what kind of man we want and turn ourselves into the kind of woman he wants. We’ve got to work really hard. And if we improve ourselves and do everything right, we’ll get rewarded when he picks us to be his companion.
Now, that’s how love worked back in the 1950s, when men were looking for a wife and most women didn’t have the resources to make a delicious life on their own.
But that’s not how love works today.
Today, marriage is optional. We earn our own living. And we don’t want “just any relationship.” We have the ability to hold out for a healthy relationship that adds joy and happiness and security and contentment to our life.
To get that healthy relationship, we can’t date like our mothers did. We can’t settle for “getting a man.” We’ve got to learn what it takes to attract good, healthy, healing love.
That’s where Anne Lamott is so inspirational.
We Don’t Have to Be Shiny to Be Lovable
Anne is one of the most incredibly honest and open women writing today. She’s open about her recovery from addiction, her mental health struggles, her doubts and her fears and her craziness, and also her faith and compassion and joy.
You wouldn’t look at her and say, “She must be beating off men with a stick.”
You’d look at her and say, “Well, she’s been single her entire life, and now she’s in her sixties, and who knows if she’ll ever meet anyone.”
Which is why I think she’s the PERFECT role model. She’s like so many of us.
She was raised to be a people-pleaser and tend to men’s needs. She felt different from everyone else and ashamed of being emotionally sensitive. She spent much of her early life just trying to figure out how to survive this harsh, brutal world.
And she didn’t meet the love of her life until she threw away all that old baggage and dared to put herself first.
Treating Yourself Well is a Radical Act
Anne describes radical self-care as “being with yourself the way that you would be with somebody you love.”
It’s looking after yourself like a parent would look after a child. Making sure you have everything you need. Caring for yourself when you’re feeling anxious or upset. Never judging yourself for not having it together. Making sure you’ve got cups of tea and snacks and a blanket and people to call when you need to talk.
What’s so radical about it is it’s about a woman DARING to treat herself as well as she treats others.
Historically, women have NOT been taught to do this.
We’ve been taught to focus on how everyone else is feeling and put our own feelings aside, so we can show up as the person who’ll take care of everything. (Because we know that no one could cope if the tables were turned!)
Think about a relationship you were in where you were so good to the man you loved. You made him dinners and you listened to his feelings and you encouraged him and you told him how attractive you found him and you made his life so easy and so wonderful.
And then maybe a personal crisis struck in your life.
Your parent got sick, or you got sick, or you lost a beloved pet, and you were beside yourself. You were so upset. You were such a mess. You couldn’t be there for him, because you couldn’t get it together.
And the question is:
What did HE do?
What did he do when the tables were turned?
Did he show up for you?
Did he listen to you and hold you and wipe away your tears and tell you you’re not alone and he’ll always be here?
Or did he conveniently disappear until the crisis was over and you could go back to being the helpful, easy girlfriend you’d always been?
I’m not blaming men here. Yes, men could do a lot better. But we create these relationships, too. We set up an imbalance from the beginning, where we’re taking care of him and we don’t ask him to put in 50%.
This is especially an issue for those of us who are that bit older, who grew up in a time when women were expected to be of service to their husband and families.
We expect ourselves to hold our relationships up, like Atlas holding up the sky, and we don’t expect anything from him, because it’s not “right” to ask a man for more.
And what happens, as inevitably as night follows day, is that we get drained.
We give and we give and we give.
We take responsibility for everything and everyone.
And it KILLS us.
Because our battery gets drained faster than it gets charged.
There’s no break. As long as we live with people, they expect to be pleased and it’s our job to please them.
We don’t know how to say no, do it yourself, help me with this, I’m going to go into my bedroom and shut the door and don’t interrupt me for half an hour.
And that’s on us.
Anne Lamott’s love life turned around when she stopped taking responsibility for the people in her life and started turning all those beautiful people-pleasing skills onto the one person who’d never got to enjoy them…
She took all that energy she’d normally spend on taking care of everyone else, and she spent it on herself.
That’s not selfish.
That’s simply about giving yourself what you’ve been giving to other people for so long.
So let me ask you:
All those wonderful things you do for other people…
How would it feel to start doing them for yourself?
How would it feel to stop feeling responsible for everyone else, and let men take care of themselves, and just focus on what you need?
If it sounds impossible, like you couldn’t possibly stop taking care of everyone else, I hear you. I’ve been there, too. That’s why I wrote THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE, and it’s why I do this work.