Every first time (and second time and third time) a mother is told to take care of herself, she’s urged to practice diligent and responsible self-care, because if she’s not happy “nobody’s happy.”
“Yes, yes…I know, I know….I will, I will…I do, I do,” I can recall saying to myself, and yet, did I dutifully practice self-care? The answer is maybe or perhaps sometimes.
I certainly thought I was “good” at self-care. I know I encouraged others to be. Your well-being matters, I exclaimed. All else falls short if you’re not healthy, clear headed, steady, feeling good and confident! And yet, time and time again, I found myself and my clients falling short in the self care department. The consistency was not there in a way that led to sustainable wellness, abundance and joy.
So what’s a gal to do? What could the missing piece be to constant, considerate, self-adoring, self-care?
While one certainly doesn’t need to be a mother to learn lessons in self-awareness and self-understanding, motherhood is sort of like the Olympics for self-growth. If you haven’t yet been called to the carpet on your limiting thinking and feeling blind spots, parenthood will drag you there in the most humbling of ways. It can be messy and literally life giving, if you let it.
Through the mud and muck of early parenthood I went. Sleep deprived, bleary eyed, resentful and quite honestly a bit pissed, yet I soldiered on. Wondering where all my glorious alone time (and rest) had gone. Who were these mythical creatures that found time to be parents and practice consistent, compassionate self-care? How did they do it, I insisted!
I wondered this on and off for years as I put everything and everyone else before myself. Baby bottles need to be cleaned, I got it. Clients needed time on the calendar, I made it. Laundry calling? I folded it. Beds made? Check out these “hospital corners!” I could be the quintessential “good” mom, wife, coach, therapist, friend. Watch me. And yet, did I care for myself? Did I show myself care?
How to truly practice self-care
So truly, what does it mean to show ourselves care? And what does it take to care for ourselves in a sustainable way that elicits wellness and feeling good, significant and important?
Enter the titans of self-worth and self-respect.
Popular culture often encourages self-love and self care, yet without much thought to what fuels either.
We are told to love ourselves and care for ourselves, and yet when that falls short, there’s not much explanation as to why or what to do about it. Except maybe, “try harder.”
Motherhood sent me careening into contemplation.
I’ve been told to practice self-care, so why don’t I consistently do it, I pondered? Here’s the answer: Self-care comes after you respect yourself and find yourself worthy of self care.
You see, self-respect and sense of self-worth must come first before a person will make self-care a priority. Yet, most of us have been taught to put the cart before the horse! We’re doing our best to practice self-care because conceptually it makes sense but without a greater sense of self-respect and self-worth we miss the mark.
Self-worth, as I understand it to be, is recognizing and celebrating our inherent value.
Once you think and relate to yourself,
as valuable, it then does immediately become of worth. When it becomes of worth, you then know and feel deserving. In this case, deserving of true and sustainable self-care rather than once in a while care after completing a very long to-do list.
This is the missing piece for so many! It is not about self love. You and those seeking self-awareness and understanding love yourselves or you wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing in terms of bettering yourselves. The constant repetition to women, in particular, to “love yourself and all will come to you” is inaccurate!
Repeat after me:
My thoughts are valuable!
My feelings are valuable!
My everything is valuable!
After increased worthiness comes the time to practice self-respect.
Self-respect is holding yourself in high regard and with dignity. Meaning, you honor what you now understand to be valuable about yourself. Therefore, you honor your thoughts, feelings, talents, wishes, time, etc. through aligned action.
When someone asks you to do something, and you truly don’t want to do it, then don’t do it, and don’t apologize to them or yourself. Even more important in the scheme of things, don’t apologize to yourself for letting others down. It is a guarantee that others will find the help they need somehow without you. That is human nature.
Acknowledge that it is human nature to want to help and that there will always be a war of sorts between wanting to help and please and pleasing yourself. Then pick and choose which “battles” you want to win for yourself, and which you decide you will “lose” and do what another asks. If you are judicious about when you say no and when you say yes, you will find that you begin to say no more often, and that you feel less and less badly about doing so.
If you can reach a place of respecting yourself, then you won’t be as concerned about the reactions of family and friends. At the same time, you will command more respect because you will be respecting yourself.
Friend, self-care and therefore my happiness flows with such greater ease now that I value and regard myself as important. And truly, this is what it boils down to. Importance. I matter, the all of me, including my feelings, thoughts, time, talents and person.
That thought? It matters.
That feeling? It’s important.
The time? It’s valuable.
Self Worth: An exercise to identify
Write a paragraph about what you see as self-worth. What does this phrase mean to you?
Identify 3-5 times you feel you have valued your worth. Write how you felt when that occurred.
Congratulate yourself for those experiences.
P.S. The experience of first-time motherhood has made me so passionate about self-care and how to truly practice it – beyond bubble baths and expensive lattes – I’m creating a course for you on how, exactly, to access those feel-good feelings. No matter what. Stay tuned!