A guilty pleasure called self-care
It is a thing commonly widespread amongst women to put our needs last and everyone else’s first. It is also common that as women, we believe other people are valuable and worthy, and yet, we don’t apply the same view to ourselves.
If there is anything all the years of working with women have taught me, it’s how very little we spend taking care of our own needs (hello all the mums in the front row!) and how much guilt we feel on those rare occasions when we actually do. These might sound familiar to you:
"I can’t go for a walk now; I need to finish the presentation for work."
"I will take a break, once I have finished the laundry." And then 10 minutes later, you notice a pile of dishes waiting to be washed and forget all about the break.
"I will watch the Bake-off once the kids have gone to bed." And then you either do more housework or simply nod off on the sofa half-way through the blind bake.
"No, I can’t sit down and relax. I have got so much to do and there is simply not enough time in the day to fit it all in."
"I will just wash the dishes, and then I take a break."
"I can’t afford to buy new jeans," you say, looking at the holes. Later on, you see some cute Gruffalo pyjamas just in the right size for your little boy or girl, and you buy it even though they don’t really need new pyjamas.
What do these all have in common? I believe it’s the low self-worth and living the belief that we don’t deserve is what’s making self-care a guilty pleasure we rarely treat ourselves to. Why else would we see it as something to feel guilty about instead of what it truly is? Self-care is a necessity, a basic need – well, only if you want to be a healthy and happy human being. But instead, we turn into human robots, going from one task to another like there is no end to it, and we become human doings rather than human beings. We simply don’t have time to be when there is so much to do.
There is no such thing as ‘delegate’ or ‘ask for help’ in our dictionary. These would only undermine our value as mothers and wives and employees, wouldn’t they? Well, no… What we do and how much we get done in 24 hours has nothing to do with our value as human being. But I don’t need to tell you that. You know it already, you just don’t believe it or buy into it wholeheartedly.
I don’t know about you, but I love metaphors. They help me grasp and comprehend things that are otherwise complex. So… let’s imagine you are a nice, comfortable taxi (yes, weird, but stick with me please!) and you enjoy driving other people around and making sure they get where they need to, and they are comfortable and happy. But you do this a lot, and you believe that what makes you a good taxi is how far you drive, how fast you get there and how many different people you drive around.
And so to increase your value and effectiveness as a taxi, you shorten your break time, extend your working hours and ignore the warning lights on the dashboard. You will deal with those when you have time. But you never have the time, and you never make the time to look at them. And you know what’s coming… one sunny day, that’s no different than any other, you run out of fuel because you didn’t get a chance to top it up, or your engine breaks because you were just too busy to get your service and MOT done. And now you are no good to anyone anymore. Get the idea?
What do I know about these things anyway? Surely, I am some kind of a well-being guru who knows it all and has mastered it, or else, why would I be here telling you about it? I wish! One thing I can say… I have been there and got the t-shirt, that’s for sure. But to be honest, I would much rather not have gotten the t-shirt and instead gone on a spa retreat that I still haven’t gone to, despite promising myself that one sunny day I would. Because the bloody retreat is just the thing I am writing about – a guilty pleasure called self-care!
Self-care can mean different things to different people. I recently coached one of my clients and she was exploring the whole issue of self-care and how to look at it from a different angle. Very often, we see self-care just as another thing we should be doing but don’t really have time to do and so we don’t, because there is a million and one other things that need to be done (generally for other people).
So how can we get unstuck and change the way we see self-care so that it turns into our right and basic need rather than something we feel guilty about?
Try to explore and ponder on the following statements:
1. You are worthy and valuable just as you are (whether you do or you don’t do all the things on your list).
2. Think about your values and who you are. If you show kindness and compassion to others, because you believe people deserve to be treated with kindness and compassion, try to use the same principles on you for once and see what happens.
3. Be kind to yourself. Think about a time when your friend needed a shoulder to cry on or someone who would listen and take their side. And now think about the last time you had a rough day and what your inner voice told you. What did your thoughts sound like? Were they kind and empathetic and compassionate just as you would treat your upset friend? Or were they harsh, belittling, judging and dismissive? How did that make you feel?
4. Self-care can often mean not doing things rather than doing something. Practice saying no to things that drain your energy and make you feel worse, especially if you don’t feel like doing them in the first place. Preserve your energy and free up some time to do things that energise you and make you feel better.
5. If you still feel stuck because it all sounds good and you would want to give it a go, but you don’t because deep down you still believe you are not worth it or you don’t deserve it (or you don’t have the time), working with a coach might help you shift your mindset and perspective, and help you to free yourself from these limiting beliefs around your worth. You can book a free 1-hour discovery session with me.