What comes to mind when you think of the term ‘self-care?’ Many people think self-care involves a lot of time or money. Others believe that self-care is selfish. These ideas are completely false. Simply put, self-care is essential for you to be the best version of yourself. It isn’t about getting weekly massages or taking candle-lit bubble baths (though these can be part of it if you choose). It isn’t about neglecting your responsibilities or ignoring the needs of others. The real essence of self-care is being true to who you are so you are living the life that you want to live, and not the life other people want you to live. It’s about making choices from a place of love and connection rather than guilt and obligation. But that love has to start with loving yourself first–and not all of us are so good at doing that—so we end up sabotaging our self-care. A while back I went on my own self-care journey, examining the obstacles that were getting in the way of taking better care of myself. Here are some things I learned along the way.
You have to give yourself permission to take time for self-care. Let’s face it; no one else will. We all want someone else to say to us, “You’ve been working so hard. You’ve been under a lot of stress. Why don’t you take the day off and just relax?” Most likely, this is never going to happen. Even if you do have someone like this in your life, ultimately you have to be the one who gives yourself permission to take time for self-care. So why do we have such a hard time doing this? Because we’ve been raised in a society that tells us we always need to be more, do more and have more. Because we’ve been raised in families that pass down conscious and subconscious beliefs that we are not worthy, that we don’t deserve what we really desire, and that we need to take care of other people’s needs before our own. Take a moment to examine this in your own life. Do you feel obligated by certain people to do things that you really don’t want to do? Do you tell yourself you don’t have time for self-care because you just don’t feel like you deserve to take time for yourself? Or are you worried about what other people will think if you do? What kinds of messages are you telling yourself about your worthiness as a human being? Examining those conscious and subconscious beliefs is the first step. Once you’ve done that, try putting into practice either or both of these helpful techniques:
“Who says so?” – Any time you catch yourself thinking that you don’t have time to relax or do yoga or some other form of self-care because you have to check off one more thing on your never-ending to-do list, question that ‘voice in your head’ by asking yourself, “Who says so?” I guarantee you will be amazed at what other voices besides your own (maybe it’s the voice of perfection, or guilt, or your mother!) you are listening to. Is listening to those voices in your best interest? What if you listened to your own voice instead? Once you’ve asked yourself this question, or separately on their own, you could ask the following two questions.
“How do I feel right now?” and “What do I need to do to take care of myself?” – In my work with clients, I have come to realize that most people are not good at checking in with themselves to see how they’re feeling throughout the day. We can’t take better care of ourselves unless we take the time to contemplate how we’re feeling and what we need. Getting into the habit of asking myself these two questions has made a huge difference in my life, and I am confident it can in yours too. I encourage you to write these questions on some sticky notes and put them in places where you’ll see them throughout the day, like on your bathroom mirror, work desk, or car dashboard. Then, every time you see them, take a moment to pause and ask yourself how you’re feeling and what you need to do to take care of yourself. The trick is that you need to pause long enough to really ‘hear’ the answers, and then go do what you need–without apology!
I had to work at it for quite a while to get to the point where I felt comfortable making time for self-care every day so let me be the first to say it won’t be easy. You’ll most likely get resistance from those close to you who have certain expectations. But those who truly love you and want what is best for you will understand. And those who give you a hard time? You might want to examine why you want people like that in your life.
Because I benefited so greatly from taking my own self-care journey and learning to implement techniques like the ones above, I created a compact but powerful online course, Stop Sabotaging Your Self-Care, to help others who are ready to make self-care a priority. In this course I guide you on a journey of self-discovery to examine the obstacles that stand in the way of you taking better care of yourself and teach you tools like the ones above to help you cultivate greater awareness around your self-care needs. I’ve included thought-provoking exercises, journal prompts, weekly meditation and yoga practices, and more.
Finally, because I found it helpful to have some supportive people tell me that I did, in fact, deserve to make time for my own self-care, let me pass that support on to you: The world needs your gifts. But you will only be able to shine if you take good care of yourself first. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate; even taking a 15 minute walk every day can make a world of difference. I promise if you do, you will feel so much better and those around you will also receive the benefits of your new-found sense of well-being too. You absolutely deserve it, so give yourself some time for self-care today.
This article was originally published in the Crazy Wisdom Community Journal, southeastern Michigan’s conscious living magazine.