Excerpt: 'The Art of Extreme Self-Care'

Read an excerpt from "The Art of Extreme Self-Care," by Cheryl Richardson.

ByABC News via GMA logo
January 11, 2009, 1:43 PM

Jan. 12, 2009 — -- Best-selling author Cheryl Richardson's new book, "The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time," offers 12 strategies to transform your life one month at a time. She says that altering one negative behavior each month can help you achieve your goals.

Extreme self-care is simply to making taking care of yourself a priority, Richardson says. One way to do that is to be able to say no to people who ask you to do things that you don't have the time or the inclination to do. Read an excerpt from the book about that topic below.

Chapter Three: Let Me Disappoint You

I hate being disappointed. For me, getting my hopes up and then having them dashed is and has always been a very difficult thing to take. That's why when someone asks for a favor, my reflex is often to say yes when I'd really rather say no. Or I spend far too long devising a gracious excuse, only to end up feeling frustrated and resentful for having wasted so much of my time.

Not long after I started working with Thomas Leonard, he challenged me to do something that sent waves of anxiety coursing through my veins. He knew that I was too concerned with what people thought of me and that I was bending over backward to be liked. So, to help me get over my need to be a good girl, he suggested that I make one person angry every day for an entire month. His intention was to help me become "desensitized" to my fear of conflict and letting people down by confronting their anger, disappointment, or hurt feelings head-on. Just the thought of doing this made me sick to my stomach. And he knew it. But he (and eventually I) also knew that it was important. It helped me start caring less about what others think and more about what I think. My willingness to face this fear paved the way for a more honest and genuine way of life.

Most of us don't like to hurt or disappoint our fellow men and women. It's an uncomfortable thing to do. Some common reasons for this are:

One of the harsh realities about practicing Extreme Self-Care is that you must learn to manage the anxiety that arises when other people are disappointed, angry, or hurt. And they will be. When you decide to break your pattern of self-sacrifice and deprivation, you'll need to start saying no, setting limits, and putting boundaries in place to protect your time, energy, and emotional needs. This poses a difficult challenge for any sensitive, caring person. Why? Because you will, for instance, disappoint a friend when you decide not to babysit her kids. Or you'll probably hurt your son's feelings when you tell him that he has to walk to his friend's house instead of always being chauffeured. Or you might anger your partner when you ask him to wash his own clothes. Because you'll be changing the rules of the game, certain individuals won't like it. But remember, if you want to live a meaningful life that also makes a difference in the lives of others, you need to make a difference in your own life first. That way your motivation is pure and without regret.

How to Disappoint the Right Way

It's amazing to see what some people will do to avoid hurting or disappointing others. My conversation with Barbara, a woman who called into my Internet radio show, illustrates this well.

Barbara was aware of her tendency to be a good girl, and even before she contacted me, she knew exactly what was going on. "I'm about to commit the ultimate good-girl act," she admitted. "For the last six months, my manager has worked hard to help me find a new position in a part of the country with a warmer climate, which is something I've wanted for a long time. But as I go through the interview process, it's becoming clear that the job isn't what I thought it would be, and I don't think I'll be happy. And here's the crazy thing—believe it or not, I'm actually thinking about taking the job anyway. Because my manager has really gone out of his way to help me, I'd hate to let him down."

As outrageous as this story seems, I wasn't surprised in the least. If you think about it, I'm sure you can recall times when you've done a similar thing. For example, even though everything inside of you screamed "No!" perhaps you agreed to take on a new client just because you didn't want her to feel rejected. Or maybe you argued with your spouse about not having enough time together, and then you found yourself agreeing to run a fund-raiser for your child's school that very day, simply because you wanted the other parents to know how committed you were. Every day people make critical decisions based on what others want, knowing on some level that they're committing an act of self-betrayal. The role of the good girl (or boy) is a tough one to turn down.

What language did I use to state my position? What worked best?

What would I do differently the next time I'm faced with a request?

Strive to get better at telling the truth. Remember:

Always take your time before responding.

Always do a gut check—be conscious of the way you feel.

Tell the truth with grace and love, in a clear and decisive way.


My book "Stand Up for Your Life" shows you how to develop the courage and confidence to make choices that honor your values, needs, and desires.

The following excerpt is taken from the new book "The Art of Extreme Self-Care," by Cheryl Richardson. It is published by Hay House (January 2009) and is available at all bookstores or online at www.amazon.com.