Working on Myself is a Full Time Job!
(Confessions on Self Leadership)

by | Nov 8, 2023

Do you ever feel like you might as well not even work on yourself because it takes so much effort, it’s a never-ending battle and you often feel as if you fail as much as you succeed?

I get you.

Last week, I shared this post on my social media:

Sometimes I get so tired of working on myself.

Being completely transparent, it’s easier to focus on someone else’s shortcomings than on mine. And there are a plethora of other people not working on themselves at all, so it’s super easy to find other things to focus on and talk about!

Where do you spend your energy?

You only have so much.

If you have never heard of The Spoon Theory, you need to know about it.

It was a theory created to explain how those with chronic illness only have so much energy to manage and have to make choices about where they will spend it before they run out. I believe in this theory, not only for those with chronic illness but I see it as valuable for everyone. Even if you are living in a place of total wellness, you still only have so much energy to expend each day. It’s revolutionary to learn about energy and how we are affected. Whether we are chronically ill or not, you and I only have so much energy. And the sooner we recognize that and make wiser decisions regarding our energy the better off we will be.

Every person is called to self-leadership whether they are leading anyone else or not. Good self-leadership includes (but is not limited to) leading oneself spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially. We can do some things, but we can’t do it all. Where will you “spend your spoons”?

Making a choice to spend your energy on you means making the choice to not spend it on something else.

Self leadership is the most important kind of leadership and it’s hard. Working on me is a full-time, never-ending, totally exhausting job.

Many people spend their energy on everything but them.

Like I said, it’s super easy to get distracted, because there are millions of people doing practically nothing regarding their own selves!

They do not get into the Word of God any deeper.

They do not pray for God’s guidance. (Except in a crisis.)

They do not go to therapy. They do not look for the root of any unaddressed trauma or emotional issues. (Meanwhile, everyone around them suffers because they were the ones who didn’t go to therapy.)

They are not mindful of what they eat, nor do they exercise.  .

They do not keep up with physical check-ups with their doctor In many cases, it has been years since they had a mammogram, a prostate exam, or had any blood work done. And they don’t care. They ignore their own physical health until there is a crisis and they can no longer turn a blind eye to it, pun intended. (And then they will expect everyone around them to rise up and help them overcome their illness that almost certainly would have been easier to manage or cure had it been diagnosed in an earlier stage.)

They do not have a coach of any kind.

They do not read any books that are of the self-leadership, personal development kind. But you will often find these folks reading fiction, sports news, and political news.

They are not part of a cohort or personal growth group,

They do not seek out financial wisdom from an advisor or set real financial goals. (They are banking on someone rescuing them financially when they get in trouble. Pun intended.)

As a result of this, they exist as a shell of their full potential.

Even so, they will still speak up to others to say, “I think YOU need to do this instead of what you are doing…”  I must confess, when this happens to me it’s maddening!! These folks love to give feedback even though they rarely take it themselves.

Don’t be THAT person. (Actually, I’m relatively sure you aren’t because people like that typically don’t read my blog! They are probably playing Call of Duty or Candy Crush on their phone or taking a personality quiz on Facebook like, “What is Your Spirit Animal?”)

Where we focus matters in moving forward!

Annie Dillard once said:

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”

Lately, I have been more mindful of the fact that I need to do a deep dive into my deficiencies like never before and work on them, resisting the urge to look sideways.

I have discovered that a lot of sideways energy is slowing my progress.

When I become fixated on others, it takes so much energy away from working on my own flaws. It can mean the difference between winning in life, and not. Remember, Chad LeClos glanced over at Michael Phelps, lost the race, and regretted it forever!  

Part of my challenge is getting all the disciplines in my life (spiritual and otherwise) going at once. For example, when I wholeheartely work on my physical self, I find myself spending less time working on leadership development. It’s hard to get it all going at once and keep it there. Because again, there’s that energy thing. I say this as a person who wrote a book on time management! Yes, anyone can struggle with this…even those who seem to be pretty good at managing.

A Christian leader-friend shared with me that when she is physically where she needs to be, she walks 6 miles a day. That’s what is required of her to totally get in shape. She said, “Deanna, it’s a full-time job when I am physically at my best.” She lamented that when her ministry/career is soaring, she is typically not where she needs to be physically. And when she is physically at her best, something else that is important in her life suffers.

I understand why. It’s so hard to get it all together at once.

This is why when people remark, “Deanna, you really have it all together!” I can very quickly say, “No, you’re wrong!”

I’ve got some things together.

But I don’t ever feel as if I have literally everything together at once.

I relate to what my friend said. Over the years, I have made an effort to walk 3-miles a day, sometimes even 7 days a week. There are times I’ve accomplished this even for months at a time! But I have to admit, when I do it, I read fewer books and articles that help me grow. Or I do something else less that is also helping me grow. But then, that other “good thing” is taking my time instead of walking. Finding the balance is a challenge. I seek the Lord on what to do first and for how long. Even then at times, I find myself second-guessing if I heard Him right.

One thing I do in this regard that helps, is to listen to leadership podcasts while I walk. (By the way, I strongly recommend the Stronger Leadership Podcast!)

I know that although this is an ongoing struggle, it’s important to keep asking God to show me where to put my efforts and to focus there and give it my best.

It’s not about being selfish.

This is NOT about being fixated on self, as some might wrongly surmise.

It’s about trying to lead myself well before I try to lead anyone else. it’s about self-leadership. It’s the most important form of leadership.

And I am admitting, it’s an ongoing struggle. Some people might make it look easy, but it’s not.

We want it to happen all at once. At least I know I do. But…

Progress is not linear.

Among other things, I am still breaking free from over-functioning, codependency, and past traumas. And of course, trying to get my physical self in order. As so many wise people point out, recovery is not linear. There are ups and downs. It’s a process, not something instantaneous.

We want to believe everything is solved in one altar service.

But it’s not.

Oh, how I wish it was.

Despite the fact that I will never be exactly where I want to be this side of heaven, it’s important to keep pressing forward. Because that’s what God desires.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

Don’t give up. 

Although real self-leadership is never-ending, challenging to the core, and requires so much of your time, keep going.

It’s worth every bit of effort to persevere and not put our heads in the sand concerning what about us needs to change.

I know a few things for sure, and one is that I’m worth doing this for, and the people I lead are worth doing this for.

If I ignore leading myself first, I make life hard for everyone around me.

I’m going to keep going.
You keep going too.

We’ve got to keep our focus where it belongs.

Seek the Lord for His plan for YOU.

And if you forget everything else in this post, remember this…

Just say no to sideways energy.

Stop focusing on the people who aren’t doing what they are supposed to be doing, and focus on what YOU are supposed to be doing.

It’s what I’m learning right now and I hope it inspires you to do the same.

I’m rooting for you.


  1. Hope Burt

    Very well said

  2. Tammy Copley

    Thanks for sharing. I’m on this journey too. I have good days and not so good days. I like how you identify that we only have so much energy each day to use. What we do with it matters.


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