Now that 2019 is underway, our mind-set naturally gravitates toward what we want to do to be better—more organized and productive, fitter and healthier, kinder and more social, better at budgeting—in short, all the things we feel we need to do to improve ourselves and our lives.
It is human nature to seek advancement. Yet, when we are already feeling stressed, running around taking care of everyone else, barely finding time to eat right, exercise, and sleep, how could we possibly add a list of well-intentioned goals to an already overfull plate?
Self-care is an essential practice, not only for our own well-being, but also for those around us.
While it might seem obvious, many people struggle with the idea of putting themselves first.
Let’s look at some of the most common beliefs that can block making self-care a priority, and why these misconceptions must be exposed:
1. Self-care turns the focus on me, and that feels selfish.
We were raised to think we should always put others before ourselves and ignore our own needs—that focusing on ourselves is somehow arrogant or self-centered.
To truly care for someone else, I must feel that way toward myself. I can’t give away what I don’t have. We are no use to anyone when we are depleted.
Self-care allows us to build up our resilience reserves so we can handle stressful and challenging life situations. Self-love means being aware of nurturing my own soul, taking care of my own needs, and not putting myself last. This allows me to be true to myself at all times and to treat myself with total respect and kindness.
Selfishness comes from a lack of self-love. This is what the planet is suffering from, along with insecurity and judgment. When we are taking care of ourselves, we don’t get drained and we don’t need people to behave in a certain way in order for us to feel cared for. Others get our love as a result of us being true and caring to ourselves.
Selfishness comes from too little self-love because we try to compensate for our lack. There’s no such thing as caring for the self too much, just as there’s no such thing as too much genuine affection for others. Our world suffers from too little self-love and too much judgment, insecurity, fear, and mistrust.
2. With all of the things on my list that I have to do, I don’t have time for self-care.
There are so many “have-tos” permeating our lives. From the little things (I have to do laundry) to the big things (I have to do my taxes) to the guilty things (I have to spend more time doing yard work).
When you consider that everything in life is a choice, every “I have to,” with all its connotations of coercion, pressure, stress, and resentment, can be turned into “I choose to.” How we choose to spend our time and what we make a priority is completely in our control. That includes time for self-care.
When we make choices to avoid pain or to please other people, we get caught up in doing, pursuing, searching, achieving. Fear of displeasing others, fear of failing, fear of being selfish, fear of not being good enough. We can become the last person we take into consideration.
Saying “no” to others often means saying “yes” to ourselves. If you think that you’re being a good person each time you say “yes,” think again. Each time you agree to something that doesn’t feel good in your gut, you are giving away a little bit more of your power.
Notice all the places in your life where you aren’t saying “yes” to yourself. Turn anything that feels like “I have to/should” into “I choose to.” Everywhere you choose to give your energy and time, consider if it is in alignment with what is most important to you. Are you doing it for approval? The only person you need to receive approval from is you.
Using discernment in where you choose to give your energy is living your truth. Saying no to others when you need to prioritize your own needs is an act of courage.
3. To be a good person, I must take care of everyone around me.
We often sacrifice self-care because we’re too busy trying to save everyone else. But people must learn their own lessons in life, however painful that is. Who are we to know what is right for another?
The way we can really help is to focus on ourselves and stop trying to run others’ lives. While we think we’re caring by “rescuing” them from unpleasant experiences in their lives, we are denying them the opportunity to face their own challenges, and a possible lesson learned.
Of course we should help people, but there is a difference between providing support for somebody who asks and taking it upon ourselves to save somebody and make their life turn out in a way that we think it should.
4. I feel worthier when I’m needed by someone else.
In order to find true happiness, deep and authentic connection in relationships, and meaningful work, we must love ourselves first. Our relationships would be better served by focusing on ourselves. We’re then able to give from a place of wholeness, without expecting anything in return or feeling resentful. When we sacrifice ourselves for others, we aren’t standing up for our own needs and our relationships become imbalanced.
If we take care of ourselves, we are more independent, less needy of getting attention or affection, and more capable of truly connecting with another human being. We teach others how to treat us by the way we care for and view ourselves. If we treat ourselves as if we are worthy, then that is what we will attract back in our relationships.
The key to whole and meaningful relationships is to love ourselves first.
5. I need my family, friends, and loved ones to take care of me.
I’ve been previously guilty of this—giving my all to others at my own expense and then feeling resentful that they didn’t give back in equal measure. It was a hard lesson learned that I was choosing to give all my love and energy to others and give none to myself.
Ultimately, we are each responsible for own self-care.
What is the most self-caring thing you can add to your list? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
>> Shift negative self-talk to positive self-support
>> Prioritize your own needs
>> Get good quality sleep
>> Eat healthfully
>> Spend time in nature
>> Be present in the moment
>> Notice what you feel grateful for
>> Give a hug
>> Spend time with loved ones and/or pets
>> Sing or dance
>> Have more fun
>> Tell a friend how you feel
>> Set healthy boundaries by saying “no”
>> Be kind, patient, and compassionate with yourself
>> Speak up in work meetings
>> Express your needs to your partner
>> Move your body and exercise
>> Laugh more
>> Follow your inner guidance and do what feels good
>> Meditate regularly
Because we all have different preferences, self-care looks different for each of us. Give yourself permission this new year to pause, breathe, and listen to your inner guidance about what you most need and want.