Many women have an innate capacity for giving and nurturing.
But some of us struggle with striking a balance between how we care for others and meeting our own needs, and it leaves us depleted. Here are some questions to ask ourselves when we’re feeling worn down:
What do I want?
It sounds so simple. But often the things we claim are most important to us don’t match up with the way we spend our time and energy. Do we say we want simplicity but find our lives to be chronically complex and unmanageable? If there’s a vast disparity between what we say we want and the reality of our lives, it’s time to take a closer look. Are we overbooked with commitments that aren’t among our top priorities? Are we blaming others because we keep forgetting to speak up for our own wants and needs?
Am I doing all the work in a relationship?
Whether it’s a friendship, a family member or a spouse, it’s worthwhile to ask ourselves if we’re doing the majority of the work in a difficult relationship.
Several years ago, a close friend and I were going through a rocky time in our friendship. She’d confided that she was envious of my new relationship, with the guy she’d introduced me to, and didn’t want to spend time with us together. Instead of ignoring the enormous, billowing crimson flag that she was about to get married but was intensely jealous of my new relationship, I agreed to meet with her weekly to journal about our feelings regarding our friendship. Not long after, our friendship imploded. In retrospect, I can see that I was working far too hard at our friendship, bending over backward to try and hold onto something that wasn’t working.
It can be painful to realize that we’re doing all the work in a relationship. But it can also help bring us back to ourselves. If we find we’re expending too much effort on trying to feed an imbalanced relationship, it might be time to take some of that energy and use it to fuel ourselves.
What would our ideal day look like?
Take a few moments and daydream. If your day could be just as you want it to be, without anything or anyone else to consider, what would that entail? Again, if it’s wildly different from the reality of your everyday life, are there any baby steps you could take to move closer to the life you want?
When I decided to finally pursue my dream of becoming a writer, I did it in baby steps. I signed up for a writing class. I put my daughter in day care one day a week so I’d have time to write. Later, I added another day, and then another. Our lives change when we start taking action to support our goals and dreams—but we don’t have to do it all at once.
For those of us accustomed to giving to others, it can feel selfish to ask ourselves these questions, let alone to pursue the changes our answers might invoke. But the truth is that self-care isn’t selfish at all—it’s essential. We deserve the same exquisite care that we so freely offer to others.
Author: Lynn Shattuck
Image: Daniela Brown/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman