These days, you can read about "self-care" almost anywhere. Advertisers are always offering to help us achieve it. Office newsletters keep warning us about the healthcare costs associated with not doing it and photos of Mani/Pedis fill our Instagram pages with it as a hashtag. Yet, despite the concept's growing popularity, most people still struggle with learning to put themselves first.
The biggest impediment to our own self-care: we don't feel worthy. You see, self-care is largely about self-worth. You can't practice the former without feeling the latter. It's not simply about the how's and why's, it's about truly believing that you deserve it. Otherwise, you can know how to do it and understand why you need it, but never fully engage in it. It's only when you truly believe that you are worth it, that it stops being a goal and finally becomes a practice.
In my years of counseling and coaching clients, I have worked with many who struggle building and maintaining consistent self-care routines. When I ask why they don't prioritize their own needs and desires, the answers are almost always the same: I don't have the time; I don't have the money; I don't have the energy. "Understandable", you might think. Suggesting cheap, easy and quick tips, however, makes no difference. For instance, take a 30 minute massages at a massage school once a month; a 15 minute, app-directed yoga break after lunch; ten minutes of gratitude listing before going to bed - all cheap, quick and/or easy. Yet, nine out of ten people will still refuse, "forget", or fail to get around to it. That is, until we start to work on their self-esteem, self-image and feelings of self-worth. Then self-care gets easy.
Why? Because the truth is that it was never an issue of wallet, watch or winding down. It was always an issue of worth; self-worth. When you change your beliefs about yourself - when you get clear about your significance and magnificence - then you make the time, find the money and muster the energy, to put you first!
It can be done, but you have to be willing to challenge some of what you have been taught: that self-care is selfish and that altruism, generosity and selflessness are the virtues of a "good person"; that putting the needs and wants of others before your own, is what makes you a good parent, son/daughter, employee, spouse and patron? Yes, it is important to be compassionate, kind and considerate, but how often do we do it at the expense of our own well-being? How often do we tell ourselves, "what I need is not important right now," "I'm not any better than anyone else that's struggling,"? Sound familiar?
We convince ourselves that our needs and our joy don't matter. All the while, by the way, sending that very same message to others. Then when they follow our cue and disregard our needs, we get mad. We just knew that they would take care of us if we just took care of them. But, why didn't we use our time, energy and money to take care of ourselves?... Not to the exclusion of kindness to others, but as a set priority in our lives. Why didn't we believe ourselves worthy of our own attention? That is the question to ask and the thought pattern to change.
If you struggle with taking the time, spending the money or finding the energy to put yourself first, ask yourself:
- When have I felt weak?
- Why do I feel guilty?
- What memories make me feel small?
- Why don't I believe I can access wealth?
- Why do I feel like I'm running out of time?
- Do I see my energy as a resource worth replenishing?
- When have I felt abandoned?
- When have I felt ignored?
- When have I felt unheard?
- What do I think will fall apart?
- What am I scared of losing?
- Why can't I trust others to care for themselves?
Dig deep for the answers. Fight the tendency to believe old stories and search for the truth inside of you. Then start to challenge your beliefs. Ask yourself:
- What strengths do I bring to the world?
- What accomplishments do I feel proud of?
- What helps me know my value?
- Can I believe that I am worthy of my time, even if it is my last minute of the day?
- Can I believe that I am worthy of my money, even if it is my last dime?
- Can I believe that I am never too tired to care for my needs?
- When have I felt helpful?
- When have I felt supported?
- When have I felt at peace?
- When have I pulled back only to have things work out well anyway?
- When has one door closed, only for another to open?
- When has someone come through for me, despite my doubt?
Sorting through these thoughts, feelings and beliefs is the first step. Every answer to every question will bring you ever so much closer to the self-care that you deserve.