Self-Care with Samuel L Jackson

Tonight it’s Friday night and I’m hanging out on the couch with my husband watching my favourite lifestyle tv and The Graham Norton Show. Tonight, Samuel L Jackson is on and he just gave some really excellent life advice. Warning: this advice comes with the usual Samuel L Jackson explicit language!

While discussing excessive Hollywood diets and ‘celebrity personal trainers’ he says:

“You know what you always tell trainers? “Motherf*cker, you work for ME!”

And I felt like cheering at the TV! This is EXACTLY the attitude more of us need to take in our lives, especially when it comes to our health. This is a lesson that it took me a long time (half a decade!) to learn, and in some cases learn the hard way. And since I realised that my doctor, coach and other practitioners work for me I have had such a different experience of not only my appointments but also my body and health altogether.

I often hear women frustrated that their doctor isn’t listening to them, that they are being dismissed and handed prescriptions that they don’t want. It isn’t just restricted to doctors but all types of practitioners that this happens with. I’m in no way anti-doctor, however I am against being a passive patient who hands over all control to the man or woman in a white coat. Or the psychologist, coach or counsellor whose office you walk out of feeling worse. Or the celebrity diet guru telling you that their meal plan and their meal plan only is what will work for you. Or, in Samuel L Jackson’s case, the personal trainer telling you to go harder when your body is saying no.

In a former life, this was me. I overtrained because I followed the advice of a well-intentioned PT giving advice to me that completely ignored the fact that I had chronic fatigue syndrome. I continued seeing a psychologist for a few sessions who, short of making me worse, certainly wasn’t helping me get better. And I spent an awful lot of my time in doctors offices having my symptoms dismissed and being given prescriptions for drugs or surgery which, if I had my time again, I’m not sure I would repeat.

It’s really only been in the last 18 months that I’ve truly started to stand up to practitioners when they are giving me advice that just does not sit right with me. Last year, in my gynaecologists office, I had to justify to her why I didn’t want to be on hormonal contraceptives anymore and why I wouldn’t let her perform an unnecessary and ‘maybe it will work, maybe it won’t’ procedure on my cervix. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It was so scary to speak up and say ‘Actually, no, I don’t want that. Maybe it works for many other people, but my instinct is telling me it isn’t right for me right now.’ Now, my gyno was a nice lady and I’m sure she meant well, but I’m also pretty sure that she felt she knew better than me what was right for my body. (Amazingly, the condition cleared up on its own when I went off the hormones, no scary cervix scarring needed. Funny that!) It was really, really hard to stick to my convictions when put on the spot by her, but I’m so glad I did.

Since then, I’ve been faced with a few more opportunities to stand up for myself with health professionals, and also with other kinds of people I’ve hired. And it has required a bit of a self-pep-talk each time and I always end up sounding way more tongue tied and far less articulate than I hope. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter because it’s MY body and MY choice how I take care of it. My agenda for my life and body may not always align with that of the practitioner or other person that I’m speaking to, and that’s ok.

So from now on in these situations my new mantra will be courtesy of Samuel L Jackson:

“Motherf*cker, you work for ME!”