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I was a master of delusion, convincing myself I was kind to myself. I had read all the books and on the surface I totally bought into self care. The logic was sound. How can you care for others if you do not care for yourself. I would watch those around me fail to spend any time on themselves. Parents who would run around after the kids 100% of the day, friends who would burn themselves out working all the hours god sends, people bending over backwards to deliver amazing things without an ounce of care for their own well-being or happiness. And possibly worst of all individuals stuck in a cycle of destruction or self pitty.
I have got this I thought. I take care of me. I go to my open mic nights once a month. I manage to squeeze in the occasional lunch or meeting with friends. I take time to meditate in the mornings.
What a lie I was living!
Whilst the above was true I would only ever spend time on me when there was no other priority. I would not go to the Saturday morning writing group because I felt that weekend time should be for the girls. I would struggle constantly with the amount of time I spent in work trying to balance being a parent, a wife, a good employee, NEVER considering what worked for me. I would even fail to meet my basic needs like using the facilities because the kids were hungry and I needed to rush them to food, or someone was expecting me and I would be late.
I had managed to convince myself that I was caring for myself, when what I was actually doing was working my way through a long list of other priorities and only when I got to the bottom allowing some time for me.
This has definitely been a profound realisation for me, as I muddle through my latest round of physchology appointments and reflections.
So what the hell am I going to do about it and what might be helpful for is all to think about too.
Stop with the criticising
It is easy to fall into the trap of self criticism. We often have unrealistic expectations of ourselves. And certainly I had developed a skill of being able to find fault with almost everything I do. I can even turn a compliment into a criticism. (Sound familiar?) This is not a skill you want to encourage.
To break this habit. Notice when you are being overly critical. Ask yourself would you critique someone else in this way. Ask yourself are you being balanced?
Put yourself ahead of other people
We might feel like we are practising good self care but sometimes we are just trying confusing ourselves do that. Some simple questions to check in with ourselves might include…
- When was the last time you did something for yourself, when you could have been doing something for someone else?
- When was the last time you arranged something simply because you wanted to do it?
- When did you last invest in your development?
If the answer was we don’t remember, rarely or why does it matter. We are probably not prioritising ourselves enough.
Sometimes our needs must come first and caring for ourselves requires a level of proactive investment. Perhaps start keeping a list of things you plan to do for yourself in a day. It could be as simple as today I will go for a walk.
Don’t deprioritise your basic needs
Sounds like an obvious one, but so many of us fail to prioritise our bear necessities, food, sleep, Headspace. As a parent I have found it so easy to deprioritise even my basic needs. I would often prioritise the children above everything. Which might sound like good parenting but it is not, one of the worst examples I could articulate is the amount of times I would hold on needing the toilet, well past the point of comfort because I was aware the kids were hungry, tired or running late for a party!
Lots of us do it as parents and sometimes we have too, but if your constant response is find a reason why you don’t need to get that sleep, why eating healthy can wait, why what ever human requirement you have is not important, you are probably not finding a balance which promotes self care. It is important to make sure we are meeting our basic needs. Getting enough rest, a healthy diet, plenty to drink (and no I don’t mean wine!)
Why self care matters.
It can be tricky finding a balance, but it is worth striving for. It is so true that we can not be our best selves unless we look after ourselves and we can not look after others as well unless we are our best selves. Besides you matter and that alone is enough of reason to care for yourself. If you need some inspiration here are some of the ways I have started caring for myself…
- Going to a writing club on the weekend during family time!
- Taking five minutes out when I have a headache just to sit quietly.
- When I list the things I want to do in the day for the kids, work, the house I also list something for me.
- Signing up for a development course (I have not done formal learning for a couple of years, which is unlike me).
I hope you can create some time to take care of you.