We take care of a lot of things every day, right? We get ourselves, and maybe our loved ones, to work each morning. We take care of the bills with the money we make at that job. We take care of our pets and plants and children and friend’s children. We take care of our yards, the laundry, the dishes, our cars. So many things to take care of.
What about ourselves? Where do you rank on your to-do list and people to take care of? If you’re anything like me, you probably fall pretty far to the bottom, if you even make the list in the first place. For a long time I thought of self-care as being selfish or self-centered and meant I was caring about other people less.
Until one day I found myself burnt out, exhausted and at my wits end with everything; my job, the people around me, everything about my life. I was bitter and resentful and unhappy. I felt like everyone was taking and no one was giving. I quit my job, stopped spending time with many people and allowed that bitterness to swallow me.
Life spun around for a while and slowly I began to remember the things I loved; writing, reading, hanging out at coffee shops, watching stand up comedy. I started to spend more and more time doing things that fed my spirit and made me feel good, that made me happy.
I used to say I was “finding myself” during that time. But I realize now, it was less about finding myself and more about taking care of myself.
An odd thing happened as I began to focus on taking care of myself; I became a nicer person. I had more patience with people. I was kind. I smiled. It was easier to let go of things because I was less attached to other people’s negativity and expectations of me.
I say it was an “odd” thing because it was the exact opposite of what I thought would happen if I took the time to take care of myself. I worried that things wouldn’t get done, that I would look selfish, that other people wouldn’t want to be around me, and that everything would crumble (I can be a little dramatic, but can’t we all?).
But I wasn’t drained when someone needed something from me, I was happy to help. It became easier to be about other people without becoming resentful, because I found happiness within myself, not in them or anything they could do for me. I become a lot more grateful when other people did things for me because I wasn’t expecting it.
I also learned that self-care is not a one time deal. If I wanted to maintain this happy, joyful version of myself, I couldn’t slip back into old habits, letting myself drop to the bottom of my priority list. I was going to have to find a way to make peace with the self-loathing guilt I harbored and choose to be important.
That was (is) a hard one for me. I am important. I am valuable. I am worthy. Those are things I taught the high school girls I mentored but they certainly weren’t things I told myself when I looked in the mirror. Self-worth and self-care go hand in hand. If I don’t think I am worth anything, I’m not going to make myself a priority and taking care of myself isn’t going to happen.
That certainly opened a can of worms. And this whole self-care thing got a whole lot deeper.
Which came first; the chicken or the egg? For me, the outward action of self-care started an inward journey of self-worth. I say that it’s a journey because I certainly have not arrived and I’m beginning to wonder if anyone really ever does. However, the further along this journey of self-worth I get, the more I understand the value of self-care.
The more I value myself, the more I value other people. And it happens in a very authentic, really honest way. That is something I want to cultivate, a lifestyle I want to develop, a person I want to be. Sometimes it’s in the really small things I notice each day, like when I get impatient and frustrated with someone but then look at them and realize we’re on the same level, we’re both valuable – there’s no comparison. The more I can be mindful and kind to myself, the easier it becomes to treat others that way, too.
There are days I find myself caught up in frustration, impatience and anger. I try not to be disgusted with the ugliness that rears it’s head and simply give myself permission to be human and remind myself to get over myself. I take a break, move around, breathe – whatever I need in the moment to let it go. It’s not easy and I’m not always successful at preventing these days from impeding on the people around me. But I’m human and so are you and we can’t all be perfect all the time. The best we can do is try to be kind – to ourselves and to each other.
So I try to carve out a little time each day to take care of myself, knowing that there are no excuses and that no one else is going to do it for me. And more importantly, remembering that everyone around me will benefit from it, as it always results in me being the very best version of myself.
Give it a try – do something for yourself today. Have a dance party of one. Find a quiet space and just breathe. Get outside. Go for a walk. Whatever makes you happy.
Take good care of yourself, friends. You are so valuable and you are so worth it.