A friend of mine posted an article today about Self-Care. It was one of the most honest, truthful blogs I've seen on the topic, and in some ways it's probably hard to read for a lot of people. It got me thinking though, about ways we overcompensate and then find the need to retreat...often dubbing bad habits as "self-care."
You should go read that article here - I don't want to plagiarize the author's words, I want to explore them a bit more with reference on how they apply to life, in general, for this CEO, Market Maven and normal human being...me. Go ahead, I'll wait here...
There's another great follow-up link here as well.
Ok, so now you probably get the jist that self-care isn't wine nights, it's not chocolate and hot baths along with "insta-worthy" photos all the time. It's the low down, un-pretty shit that nobody wants to hear or talk about. Kind of like mental health and therapy were just a few short years ago?
When I went to Instagram to look for #selfcare, I was inundated with FBR (filtered beyond recognition) selfies, bathtubs and product placement photos staged 'just right' (like these featured here.) I stopped and thought about it for a minute and came back with the fact that I can't remember the last time I took a bath. With smelly stuff and fizzy things. Flowers and candles. Nope, most of my cleaning routines include the hottest, most scalding water I can handle, a shower cap, and a timer for 3.5 minutes because I HAVE SHIT TO DO AND I DON'T HAVE TIME TO WASH MY HAIR TODAY.
It seems as we women (and men too!) have spent years working towards self-love, acceptance and transparency the commercial and social media worlds around us have conformed to create new, higher demands, more things to buy and more ways in which we need to achieve perfection. The current buzz word; it's all in the name of self-care. It's one more damned thing to do on the never-ending to-do list that most of us have. I like to think of it as moving the goalposts on standards. Did you journal today? Did you do your breathing exercises? Did you do yoga? Well, if you didn't, you're not practicing self-care and you might achieve burn-out! Hey Marie Claire, I'M ALREADY THERE. None of those things make me feel any closer to my real self - they're one more obligation. But damn if I don't feel the pressure to do the things just so I can seem "healthy" and in tune with my emotions.
Here's are some of the things that self-care is to me - many of which are covered by the articles linked above. But, from my standpoint:
It's waking up early 6 days a week. It's pre-scheduling my gym workouts because THAT is the place I relieve stress and strengthen my body, and despite the innate desire NOT to go sometimes, I go anyways and I give what I have that day. It's keeping those commitments NO MATTER WHAT. That means saying "no" to meetings that interrupt that time. It's saying "no" to interferences that will affect my progress. It's disappointing people with my lack of open-ended availability. Sometimes, even "no matter what" wakes me up at 5a. with a headache. Self-care is knowing when I CAN push through, and when my body is saying "let's take care of this first, and we'll go to a later class." It's not throwing myself down the stairs because I missed the first step. I think it relates back to that whole "wisdom to know the difference."
My self-care includes my WW program. Tracking what I eat, staying in tune with my body when I make both good and indulgent choices (see what I did there? I didn't call it a BAD choice.) Making healthy meals most nights of the week. Planning meals and planning ahead when I go out. It's clarifying to folks that I'm choosing things that are good for my body, not "dieting" so I can "be skinny." Helping them understand that I'm feeding my body to be strong and endure all of the shit life throws at me. Do I have cookies and chocolate and wine sometimes? You bet your ass I do. And I try REALLY hard NOT to use alcohol as a means of escape from my day but as a celebration of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Self-care for me includes correcting misunderstandings and misconceptions about ways I'm being treated. It includes not saying "great" if someone asks how my day is and it's actually not. It's about telling those closest to me that "I am not okay today." There's no expectation that they fix me, but they need to understand what they, and I am dealing with. It's about calling someone on their passive-aggressive insult towards me for things that they probably need to deal with.
[Example: I went out to a concert in Seattle last week - a place and thing I rarely go do. I dressed up - satin shirt, trouser jeans, heels and a leather jacket with RED lipstick. An acquaintance that came along noted how "when she was a young cute thing, she dressed that way, but just wait, once you hit xyz age you won't do that anymore." Now I realize there was a compliment in there, and I appreciated it. But as the conversation moved forward, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was being punished for being a younger person in the crowd. This is HER insecurity, it's literally nothing I can control.]
I've stopped apologizing for the 100000000 little things that happen during the day. If I'm at fault, I try to own that shit, but there are some things that just aren't. I will not apologize for taking up space in this world. There's plenty of space to go around. I've also stopped apologizing for being successful. Am I a billionaire or a savant? No. Is my business a product of the hard work, blood, sweat and tears I've put in for 6+ years? Yes. Celebrating that and owning that shit is NOTHING to apologize for. In some cases, I know best, in others...I have lessons to learn - but the path it glorious in all its faults, turns and twists and I'm going to enjoy the ride.
One of the most significant items in my self-care ritual that somewhat encompass all of the previous points above...saying "no." That involves disappointing people. That involves not being "the fun one" because I have an early class to get to and I've got to get 8 hours of sleep (I know this about myself after 39+ years.) That includes saying "no" to another drink, dessert, or more food on the table because I'm full and I know I'll feel like shit the next day. That includes driving separately to an event so I have an out if I want it. It also includes saying "no" to volunteering my time for something that won't bring me joy. Saying "no" to toxic conversations that revolve around spouses and bitching because I'm in a very tender place in my relationship right now and it's not a road I should start down. Saying "no" in my marriage to things that break my boundary of acceptable behavior.
So, as you can see, there is a lot of discipline in self-care. I love the word the author used in the links above: parenting. I parent myself all the time. I talk to myself and remind my brain that I am capable of great things, and this current path may not be leading me in the ultimate direction I want it to. I also tell myself I'm worthy of the decisions I make for myself. It's not easy - most of the time. But I truly feel that it's the best self-care I can give for my best self.
And because I don't think I could have said it better myself, here is the end quote of the second article linked above: "Because at the end of the day, loved ones are everything. But the relationship you have with yourself, is really the only one that matters. She is the one you will forever wake up to, so cherish her. Love her. Respect her. Take care of her."
Get out there and become your own superhero.