Ladies, when you think of Audrey Hepburn, what comes to mind? Her chic haircut in Roman Holiday? Her Givenchy originals in Sabrina and Breakfast at Tiffany’s? For me, I think of Hepburn’s hard upbringing in WWII and her later career as a UNICEF ambassador. Her film work was really a small part of her exquisite life, bookended by receiving, and later giving humanitarian aid.


For Grace and Grit, Audrey embodies selflessness. That’s why we used this quote from her on the Selflessness box:


“You have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”


I love this quote for many reasons. First, it’s visual. It’s easy to look down at your own hands and think, “Yes. These hands are made for helping.” Each time you look at your hands, it’s easy to remember your purpose, to help others.  Second, it challenges me to remember the harder part about practicing selflessness: the SELF.


We all know somebody who is considered “the helper” to the point of major burnout. They overextend and do and do and do and neglect themselves until they can’t do anything for anybody. Ok, yeah, maybe I’m guilty of this. Aren’t all women, especially mothers? But this quote reminds me of something Audrey practiced flawlessly.


Audrey put the SELF in selflessness. Her efforts as a UNICEF ambassador helped get aid to millions, but in between, she rested. She practiced self care.


Ladies, you really can’t help others unless you practice taking care of yourself. One hand is indeed for helping others but notice, in her quote, Audrey remarks the first one is for helping YOURSELF. Woah. As someone who tries to be selfless, it can be hard to wrap my mind around that idea. Audrey did great things. She also spent weekends tucked away reading and taking walks and spending time with her sons. She cooked. She rested. THEN she helped.


As women, it’s so easy for us to try to do all of one or the other. I even feel guilty when I practice self care sometimes. I’ll think, “Do I really need that manicure? Do I really have an hour for the gym? Can I really lock my door and take a bath when I should be cooking dinner?” Ladies, YES.


Audrey was not selfish. She visited Thailand, Somalia, Kenya, Bangladesh, and more in her efforts to cure hunger through UNICEF. When promoting their work, she gave up to 15 interviews a day. She even got the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992, the highest civilian honor in the US! Audrey was selfless to others, but she was kind to herself, too. Audrey Hepburn practiced selflessness and fed millions, but it was because she valued and took care of herself also.


Audrey’s SELFlessness was not selfishness. But I think it’s an important idea to remember. This Women’s Month, give it a try. Use one hand to help others, but use the other one to take care of yourself.


If a UNICEF ambassador can put the “self” in selflessness, I think I can, too. Good luck, ladies. Be kind to a stranger, but get that manicure, too. Audrey would approve.