My biggest pet peeve with the self-care and wellness industries is the vast oversimplification of saying, “Just make more time for yourself!”
As I’m sure you know, figuring out how to live a balanced life and how to make more space for yourself is a nuanced process. There’s no “just” about it, and framing self-care that way invalidates those of us who are working hard every day to be our best selves.
An effective approach to self-care needs to acknowledge that prioritizing what is most important to us and what makes us feel good is a deep and sometimes lengthy process.
You’re okay with the idea of prioritizing your own needs, but feel crippling guilt when you try.
There are many potential complexities around taking care of yourself. Maybe you’re not comfortable with the general concept of putting yourself first because we do and should be accountable to other people and our responsibilities. Or you’re okay with the idea of prioritizing your own needs, but feel crippling guilt when you try.
Maybe your attention is way too divided between your many commitments but you find yourself unable to choose a couple of things and drop the rest. And when it comes to self-care, it’s hard to differentiate what actually makes you feel your best from what you’ve been told you should do to take care of yourself.
This is not just a matter of finding an extra half hour a day!
Support for building up your self-care should intentionally consider each of these nuances and help you clarify what works for you. Otherwise, you’ll be caught in the net of oversimplification and will keep feeling stuck.
Having said all that, just because there is a lot to consider does not mean the process needs to be overwhelming.
In 3 Ways to Put Yourself First Without Putting Them Second, I offer tangible ways to take care of yourself without feeling like you are neglecting your other responsibilities.
Here, I want to address the other complexities I mentioned: having your attention divided between too many things you care about and sorting what feels good to you from what you are “supposed” to do to take care of yourself.
Shame is the inner voice that turns “I did a bad thing” into “I am a bad person.”
If you want to move away from being overcommitted, one of the internal dynamics you need to shift away from is shame. Shame is the inner voice that turns “I did a bad thing” into “I am a bad person.” “I did a bad thing” might not feel great but it is not a judgment on your character. In fact, recognizing that you’ve made a mistake allows you to let go of commitments that no longer serve you. If you equate making a mistake with being bad or unworthy, though, that shame will outweigh your desire to let go.
Changing your inner “I am bad” into “I made a mistake” or even “I did a bad thing” will allow you to move on from your overcommitment in a much healthier way. You can thank those you may have affected for their understanding and flexibility, let go, and learn from your experience so that next time you can stop yourself before saying “yes.”
Sorting what you want for self-care from what you “should” do for self-care requires deeper reflection. I encourage my clients to think of self-care not only as physical care of your body, but as what makes them feel most whole. Spend time digging into what makes you feel like your fullest self. What recent moments have you experienced where you felt your best? What made those moments special? In what small ways can you replicate that specialness on a regular basis?
Reflecting on these questions is a great start to taking care of yourself in a way that truly nourishes you.
And next time someone makes you feel guilty by saying, “You just need to put yourself first!” send them a mental blessing, walk away, and ignore their advice. Because there’s no “just” about it.
Gabriella Feingold helps women who have built their lives around taking care of other people to take care of themselves. She lives in White Plains with her husband, Louis, and thrives on performing in community theatre, attending ceramics classes, and jumping ocean waves. She can be found at gabriellafeingold.com.
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