If self-care consisted only of bubble baths, we would all be in trouble. Let’s not get things twisted – a bubble bath may very well be the vital self-care that you need. The critical shift,however, is noticing the false narrative about ourselves that the self-care action might bring to light or challenge. Often that nasty voice inside us starts saying things like, “But what about all those other productive things I need to be doing? I shouldn’t waste all that time just sitting and relaxing!”
One thing we’ve learned living through a pandemic, a racial war, the attack on gas (apparently), and a months-long election cycle is that life can get tiring. What does self-care look like? It can look like getting your nails done or taking the time to make a hair appointment. It can be a massage or even treating yourself to a new toy. For some, self-care can be an extravagant trip to the islands, while for others, self-care can be sitting outside in nature.
Where it really starts.
Self care starts with loving and knowing yourself. Self-care is also knowing when to set boundaries. Self-care is about saying no to things that can wait and that will ultimately be there when you get back. A dear friend once said, “You are the only person who can be gentle with yourself.”
Imagine if you said “yes” to everything that was asked of you? “Yes, I will volunteer for this.” “Yes I can give you money for that.” “Yes I can take you here.” “Yes I will complete this task or take over this project.” You would have no space for you or the things that matter to you. And your physical, mental, and emotional health would all suffer as a result.
Boundaries = True self-care
Boundaries give you room for you to make space for yourself. That is true self-care.
Often we miss the concept that we are the only ones responsible for and capable of providing comfort to ourselves. We have been sold the lie that it is the solemn duty of those closest to us to validate our self-worth. We often value most the words and perspectives of those nearest to us, hoping that maybe one of those voices will quiet the self-defeating internal monologues that we sit with.
Boundaries define what is mine and what isn’t. Many of us have bought the lie. We’ve been terrible at setting healthy boundaries and truly caring for ourselves, and it shows. We are exhausted. We have neglected the TLC that our bodies, minds, and spirits most desperately need.
Why it’s so important.
For those who end up in the caregiver archetype, either presently or in the past, the thinking behind not prioritizing self-care might sound like, “But if I spend time taking care of myself, who is going to take care of everyone else?” But truly, how can we possibly care for others well when we neglect to care for and love ourselves? You cannot give what you do not have. You cannot pour from an empty bucket.
So, some homework for you. Try out this self-compassion break exercise from Dr. Kristin Neff. Why? Because you’re worth it, and because you are the only person who can be gentle with yourself.