We talk a good game, don’t we? About the importance of self care. About knowing how critical it is in order to function and be fulfilled in our lives and our work.
We adore Pinterest boards dedicated to it, reaffirming our love affair with the notion. From inspirational quote pins by Oprah to the ever-popular “can’t fill an empty cup” analogy, all styled beautifully with artful backgrounds. Such a romantic idea, self care is, isn’t it? Like some kind of dreamy other world we get to occasionally get a wistful glimpse of while admiring other fantasies on the internet. As we stay up past 2am to meet a deadline…
Such images and quotes are beautiful but they’re not realistic, right? I mean, we don’t actually bother with setting aside dedicated time for ourselves because seriously. Those 50 million things on our ever-growing to-do lists aren’t going to miraculously all complete themselves. Self care, it would seem, is but a glamorous fantasy.
It’s that “good” porcelain teapot, safely displayed behind the glass doors of our china cabinets, expensive and frivolous and so very rarely used. It’s that indulgent spa gift card a friend gave us 6 years ago that is still probably somewhere amidst the chaos in our wallets. It’s the $10 purple orchid we swoon over and then walk away from in the grocery store flower department. Surely that $10 is better spent on something more practical, anyway.
The notion of self care, like using that teapot or gift card or buying that flower, is lovely and romantic, but the reality is, there’s no place for such things in day to day life.
Do we genuinely not feel deserving of even small indulgences, such as pouring our next cup of tea from that dainty antique pot as opposed to an old, dented stainless steel kettle? Or is it just a long-standing belief programmed into us years ago that we haven’t bothered to question? Why are the “good” dishes, teapots, silverware, bedding… only fit for company? Why do we only buy flowers for other people? And why the heck haven’t we used that darned gift card?
Partly because we’re just sometimes on autopilot, not really taking a step back to think about teapots and the like. Our minds are already crammed full with a zillion things and who has time to question any additional ones? We’ve always just done things this way.
It’s also, of course, partly because we put everyone else above ourselves, thinking that is what we are always “supposed” to do. So as not to appear selfish, or indulgent or whatever might make us feel guilty for welcoming more soulful abundance in life, we allow it to be so. We allow even little things we might thoroughly enjoy to be forever out of reach, forever unimportant, forever… impractical. We. Allow. It.
One thing I hear over and over when encouraging women to make time for self care is an objection based on lack of time. I hear that, believe me. I have two very busy kids and two websites to run, a sport I am passionate about that requires practice (more on that later), and a very long to-do list.
Self care can take many forms. Time away from the chaos of daily life is most certainly one of them, and something I’d encourage you to take for yourself as a recharge whenever possible. And time away, though best taken in larger chunks, can also mean a five minute break, so long as that break is spent actually doing something for yourself. However, time is hard to come by, so thankfully it’s not the only manner in which you can show yourself some love.
Need some examples to try? Thought so. How about these for starters:
- Predictable, but yes. Get that “good” teapot you inherited from grandma out of the cabinet and use it, even if not for tea. Prefer coffee? Me too! Who cares if you serve it to yourself from a “tea”pot? The point is, serve yourself your favorite drink from a vessel more aesthetically pleasing than a generic coffee pot glass carafe. And of course, use a pretty mug or better yet, a dainty teacup! These seemingly small additions to something so routine are sure to at least glamourize your day a smidge. And do your friends a favour. Snap a photo of that thing and post it (later!!) on your instagram so they can see it. How’s that for multitasking? You just showed yourself some love AND inspired someone else to do the same. What you’re doing: treating yourself to something beautiful.
- Stop it with the old school thinking. Seriously. We as women often feel we are the only ones who can do all the things. In 1952, maybe that was something you’d need to concern yourself with, but this isn’t 1952. Is your list of stuff to do super overwhelming? Take a good, hard look at it and find the non necessities – can some of those be eliminated? Delegated? Relegated? Take the pressure off yourself by letting go of things other people can help you with. What you’re doing: valuing your time, and making more of it for yourself. Also, commanding self respect, which in turn tells others to treat you with the same respect, too. Also, if you have kids, setting a great example that will help make sure they don’t become equally overwhelmed later in life.
- Practice saying no to unnecessary commitments, unapologetically. Don’t really have time to make 50 cupcakes for that bake sale? Then why would you say yes? It can be tempting, in the interest of being helpful and showing you care, but saying yes to something you really don’t have time for is once again putting yourself last. Saying yes might make you look like wonder woman, but it might also make you feel like incredibly-tired-and-frustrated-uber-stressed-out-bitter-woman, too. That is most definitely not the kind of woman you deserve to be. What you’re doing: respecting yourself, and your health by not being guilted into stressful situations.
- STOP thinking of self care (in whatever form you choose to take it) as a luxury. This is probably one of the most erroneous misconceptions we have as women. We take care of and cherish the ones we love, we strive to teach our children the importance of loving themselves, we get mad at our parents when we see them neglecting their health. But how often do we walk the walk? The health of your body, your mind and your soul is every bit as important as theirs. It’s time to acknowledge that and move past the guilt and commit to yourself for the better of everyone involved. What you’re doing: giving back to the ones you love by giving back to yourself. Win Win.
- Speak up. We’re so good at advocating for everyone else, now it’s time to use those skills for ourselves. Dying to have some down time, but feeling awkward telling the people in your life you need a sanity break? You can tell them now, or wait until you’re a pent-up stressball who ends up either getting sick or having a meltdown, or both. That last option is probably a lot more awkward, though. What you’re doing: admitting you’re human, honouring yourself, and dodging stress. Aw yeah.
- Zap that negative self-talk. Self care comes from self love, and self love starts with acceptance, positivity and inner strength. If you’ve been treated by others as though you’re anything less than the amazing creature you truly are, let that be their problem for being so short sighted. Let that be their loss for not valuing you and all that you offer. You have flaws that you wish you didn’t have? Even the “hottest” supermodels are extensively airbrushed. There is NO perfection in humans. None. If you keep on thinking you’ll only love yourself (or others will only love you) when you look better or when you fix whatever it is about yourself that you think makes you somehow less worthy, you are wasting precious time in your life. Every living being faces challenges, sometimes painful ones. Everyone has times when their self confidence takes a beating. It can be easy to get swallowed up by that negativity, and to get stuck there. Maybe for some reason you can’t fix that thing about yourself you wish you didn’t have to deal with. But you can fix how to talk to yourself about it. Some magazine is trying to tell you you’re only hot if you’re a size 2? That doesn’t make it truth, it just makes them shallow. It doesn’t mean you’re not “good enough”, it means their idea of what is attractive is seriously messed up. You don’t have to accept negative messages, whether from magazines, bullies, competition in business, loved ones, or even yourself. Unfortunately, the only ones you can control are your own. But you know what? Those are the most important ones. Yours. Accept and love what you have and who you are, and make a habit of correcting yourself when negative thoughts arise. What you’re doing: inviting more self love into your life, instilling natural confidence and getting stronger by refusing to let negativity rule you. All things which will help you in life and work.
I have even more to add to this list, but will save those for another post. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you. How do you bring self care into your life? What constitutes self care to you? How often do you practice self care, and did you realize there were so many different ways to do it? Please leave a comment below.