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How a self-care cynic fell in love with self-care.
I hit rock bottom a few years ago.
Life just got on top of me. I was suffering from constant mum guilt, people pleasing, perfectionism, health anxiety, and had a job that didn’t light me up. I was showing up to my kids as irritable and impatient, and I was bored.
I used to wake up most mornings and look forward to getting back into bed at night again. I was numbing out by having a jam-packed diary, watching Netflix, scrolling on my phone, and ignoring my husband.
A few months into my rock bottom, I went to see a therapist, and after a few sessions, she told me that I didn’t have a solid sense of self-worth. All of my issues led back to me not feeling good enough or deserving of the life that I had. Despite trying my best, I always felt that I wasn’t a good enough mother, friend, employee, wife, human being (despite having no evidence to support my warped thoughts). My default was literally to not feel good enough and to seek out reasons daily, which evidenced that belief.
My therapist told me that I needed to actually do things that made me feel good because those simple acts would cultivate a feeling of self-worth and love. I could’ve laughed in her face. I’d always filled my cup by spending time with others and giving everything to everyone else. How could focusing on self-care and self-love really change my life? It seemed too simple and too easy. Surely I needed to have a few years of CBT, NLP, or become a monk to sort myself out.
But I followed her advice and tried anyway. I tried things to see if they made me feel alive, which included Roller Derby, solo walks on the beach, journaling, listening to podcasts, watching sunsets, meditating, singing loud, and learning to speak Italian. I also went cold turkey from people pleasing, my jam-packed diary, and hibernated from my social life for a month. As a serial people pleaser with FOMO, it was way out of my comfort zone to say “no thanks” to things that I didn’t want to do, but instead of making excuses, I told my friends that I needed time alone. And all of my friends understood and supported me.
Over that month, my self-care and self-love journey really took off with one simple act, and that was a 12-minute sunrise yoga. I’d never done yoga before; I’d always liked the idea of it but always thought that there was no way I could fit it into my busy-mum life.
But during that month, I was willing to try anything that would make me feel brighter, so I started to get up at 6 a.m. before the kids and do an online yoga session in my front room. This yoga practice was self-care in its truest form, something that I didn’t have to do, but I chose to do it anyway because it made me feel good. My yoga practice gave me something to learn and grow from, it grounded me and energised me, it grew my confidence, and best of all, it sparked some internal self-love that I had never felt before.
My yoga practice began a ripple effect, and from there I started to journal regularly, use affirmations, listen to podcasts that energised me, began tapping (EFT), and scheduled time alone just for me. Within a few months, I had my own “self-care toolkit,” something that was bespoke to me and consisted of things that made me feel energised.
Some things in my toolkit are simple, daily things that make me feel good—like having my morning coffee in my favourite bright yellow mug, listening to an uplifting podcast while in the shower, having a desk filled with my favourite stationary.
Some things in my toolkit are more of a biggie like: spending time with people who energise me (and saying no to people who don’t), needing to learn and grow outside of my comfort zone, and keeping one day a week sacred for me to spend time alone.
From this place of newfound self-worth, my life has transformed. Life is so much easier when you have a solid sense of self-worth. I’m much calmer, don’t suffer from mum guilt, anxiety, people pleasing, FOMO, and I don’t need to numb out. I quit a corporate job to start my dream business, and I’ve never felt more alive than I do now. I’m no longer in survival mode; I’m actually thriving, and I know that is what my life is for.
The idea that self-care is selfish and that self-love is indulgent is outdated and out of touch. Putting ourselves at the top of our priority list makes us show up as the best human that we can be. When we nourish ourselves by doing things that make us feel alive, we nourish those around us too by teaching them that putting ourselves first and looking after ourselves matters. Imagine a world where we all did that; it would be blissful.
Today, why don’t you think about your self-care toolkit—do you have one? What is in there at the moment? Is it just face masks and bubble baths? Or are there things that actually make you feel alive, energised, and add to your sense of self-worth?
If you’re not sure what to put in there, spend a week or two making a list of what energises you and what drains you, and from there compile your own self-care toolkit.
Try and do less of the things that drain you (ditch or delegate them) and prioritise making time to do things from your toolkit. Build your toolkit into your daily routine. It will transform your life.