I really, really, really want to be a person who invests in themselves. Because after all that is what self-care is at root. It’s recognizing that you deserve to be a priority. Perhaps we know this cognitively. But how many of us prioritize ourselves at least as much as we prioritize the needs of others?
Increasingly I’m realizing that the spectre of missed self-care opportunities becomes another reason to berate myself. It ends up being something on my to-do list. It becomes something I SHOULD do, or HAVE to do. Rather than something I want to do or truly deserve. At this point, it has become self-defeating.
In earlier posts I’ve mentioned trying to take words like SHOULD out of my dictionary. They’re not helpful, they’re not motivating and they certainly don’t make me feel good. The same applies here. If it’s only adding on the pressure then it’s no longer self-care.
So, how do we change the narrative? Can we re-think self-care to make it work for us? Life is about balance. And here’s the crux. Looking after ourselves helps us find that balance in life. Taking time for ourselves helps reset our equilibrium. It also gives us the time to catch up or enjoy. Without it my life would be running between my jobs and chores with little time to actually stop and enjoy the fruits of my labour.
The biggest barrier to self-care is often time. If I don’t have time to do all the little bits and pieces that never get done. Then I certainly don’t have time to take a break. I mean who has time for that. What a luxury! At some point, taking time out of our day became synonymous with having nothing to do. Rather than recognizing it as an integral aspect of our daily or weekly routines. Holding equal importance to other aspects of our lives.
Changing the narrative around self-care means re-thinking our priorities. Particularly how we prioritize ourselves. Somehow, I’ve become the last thing on my to-do list. I’m that thing I get to do once I’ve done everything else. Often for everyone else. When did that happen?
I’m now determined to make myself a priority not an option. We’ve heard all the platitudes like “you can’t pour from an empty cup” and they’re commonplace for one simple reason. They’re true. And yet. I keep expecting myself to run around and do everything whilst running on empty. If I expected my car to do this I would end up on the side of the road with no petrol in my tank. We’re humans. We need fuel. And self-care is part of the picture.
Make Self-Care Compulsory
Everything I’ve said so far is great. But it’s all lip service unless I actually do something about it. I read somewhere that you should put self-care in your diary, like you would anything else compulsory. Once it’s in your diary it’s immovable. We need to safeguard our time for self-care at least until it becomes habit. Something we automatically prioritize or deeply recognize as essential to our wellbeing.
For me, self care is never a priority and always an option. And one that I usually don’t get around to. But what if I flipped the equation. How would my life look if I made looking after myself compulsory? If I looked after myself in the same way I so often look after others. If I considered my own physical and mental health as important as household chores.
The How-To of Self-Care
Unless we safeguard our time for self-care, it simply won’t happen. So whilst having tips and tricks at our finger tips. They’re of no use until we truly acknowledge our own importance. Until I see my own needs as of equal value to the needs of others. Self care will continue to be a missed opportunity.
For How to Make Self Care Work for You read here.
The First Step to Self Care
For a start, we may need to acknowledge if our lack of self care is truly a lack of time. I hear this one all the time professionally when we talk about self care. Or if there is something more fundamental going on. A conscious or subconscious belief that others are more important. That it’s selfish to prioritize ourselves. Perhaps the need to be busy constantly because we need the distraction? Or viewing busyness as some kind of status symbol.
It may be the need to be kind to others and treat others in a way we wish to be treated. Hoping one day someone will show us the same kindness? Others of us may be driven by perfectionist impulses, with the work never complete there’s no time to stop. For me, it’s all of these and the thought that if I ever paused I’m not sure I’d find the energy to stop.
Some of these thoughts may resonate with you. Perhaps not. They may lead to you to think critically about what is going on in your own lives. You may feel comfortable doing this reflection by yourself or with someone you trust. For many of us, particularly if our past brings up complicated feelings, it would be wise to do this supported by a professional.
Make the Time
I linked to a previous blog above with ideas of how to make self care work for yourself. We all have different routines, varying amounts of time and a unique responsibility load. So it’s crucial that self care works for you. If it can’t fit alongside the other priorities in your life; then it’s unlikely to become an embedded habit. But once we’ve truly acknowledged the importance of investing in ourselves through self care. It will be that much easier.
Part of the journey to safeguarding self care may mean rethinking our priorities. With self care as a new one to the list, think about what else is there. Does it need to be? Could someone else be doing it? Would we like to let go of it? If it no longer serves us, or perhaps we said yes to it when we really wanted to say no. I am a people pleaser at heart, the reasons why are deeply personal as they so often are. So saying no has never come easy to me. But it can be an essential tool in carving out that time for self care by re-balancing what else we commit to.
For How to Say No to Protect Your Mental Health read here.
The Deeper Benefit
Once we’ve committed to the practise of self care and found it’s place in our life we’ll be surprised by the chances it can bring. Self care is a frequent short term investment for longer term gain. Yes it will boost our immune system, give us energy, increase our motivation and help balance our mood. But it will also have consequences for our self-esteem and our perspective on ourselves. The more we take time for ourselves, the more our brain begins to understand. It rethinks our status as a second class citizen. Combatting negative thinking will gradually become easier as we start to believe in our importance as a human worthy of investment, in both time and love.
For Why Self Care is Everyone’s Responsibility read here.
What are your thoughts on self-care? Do you manage to do it? Do you think it’s about prioritzing yourself or do you think about it in a different way? Let me know below!