Self Care Series - Part 1: What it Isn't and What it is
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In this season of my life, sleep is sporadic, energy is adequate [thanks to my 20oz coffee mug], and “me time” is at an all time low. I know it’s not forever. This is a season of little humans who need a lot of love, a lot of guidance, and a lot of help with daily life. There’s a significant amount of energy put towards others. I knew that going into being a parent of three, but at the same time I didn’t really know what it would be like. Sometimes it’s good to be a little naive.
Within all of the craziness of life with little kids, I want to be able to show up to this life as me in my fullest capacity, or at least 80% (I like the 80/20 rule for most things in life). In order for me to do this I have to be adequately well, especially with my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. (Tip top is ideal, but let’s be realistic.) I can’t be of any help to anyone if I’m a grumpy, stretched-to-the-max mess most days. I have to fill up my cup in order to be able to give to others. It’s not just life as a parent that calls for this kind of thinking. It applies to all areas of your life. Are you in the workforce? You better believe it. An entrepreneur? You betcha. Travelling the world seeing new things and meeting new people? Yup, it still applies.
In order to show up in life I have to take care of myself. I have to make sure that I’m as close to optimal functioning as possible. This is where our good ol’ friend, self care, comes in.
What Self Care Isn’t
Before I dive into what self care is (and how to have more of it in your life in Part 2 of the series), let’s talk about what self care isn’t.
Contrary to some, self care is not selfish. Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean that you’re a narcissist. It doesn’t mean that you think you’re the only one that matters or that the world revolves around you. It doesn’t mean that you are ignoring others or depriving them of something fundamental to human existence. Self care, and the time you take to do it, is not a statement to the world that you are superior or more deserving than someone else.
You are a human being with needs just like everyone else.
Your needs are important.
And if you’re someone who loves to take care of others because it fills up your cup and gives you a deep sense of fulfillment, then taking care of yourself (i.e. self care) means that you can show up to do the work. Period.
Filling up your cup means that you have more to give to yourself and to others.
If there’s someone in your life who thinks otherwise, then there could be one of two things going on:
They have their own mental blocks around self care. Perhaps they don’t understand self care, or they don’t think it’s important. Maybe they don’t feel like they’re worthy of self care so they don’t understand why others hold it so high on their priority list. Whatever the reason, just because someone else doesn’t understand something or believe in it doesn’t mean that it’s not important for you. (This applies to many areas of life, not just self care.) My biggest piece of advice is to keep your eye on your own path and to try to remember that the only person you can control is yourself.
They fear that you’ll have less time and energy for their needs. It’s understandable. Deep down inside we’re all trying to survive in this world and we’re hardwired to push back on (or run away from) things that threaten what we feel is necessary for our survival. They’re not necessarily narcissists for doing so, but that doesn’t mean that it’s okay, especially when it’s not about literal life or death. There’s a level of personal responsibility that each of us carries for our personal growth and not everyone is going to be on the same plane of self-awareness as you. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different and it’s important to take a step back and recognize whether someone is having undue influence on you.
Side note: it’s not uncommon for a narcissist to try to flip the script and make others feel bad for taking care of themselves so that the narcissist can get more of their time and energy. If there’s someone in your life who’s doing this regularly, then it may be worth asking yourself if they might be narcissistic. I’m not a therapist so I’m not going to give you advice on what to do if you do have a narcissist in your life. What I will say is that you are worth every ounce of time and energy that it takes to take care of you. If a narcissist in your life is interfering with this, then I would seek out a therapist to get some guidance on how to navigate that relationship.
What Self Care Is
Recently I was given four hours of glorious “me time” when my spouse offered to take all of our kids out for the afternoon so that I could have some quiet time. As an introvert and empath who’s surrounded by BIG little kid emotions, this was the greatest gift I could be given. During these four hours I got to thinking about self care - what it is, its importance and how it looks at different stages in life depending on how much time we have and what makes us feel well.
When I looked up the definition of self care I realized that it’s much more ordinary than I had thought. Sure, bubble baths and visits to the spa feel luxurious and wonderful. Yes, whisking away on a mini-vacation is a lovely way to check out and get some well-deserved R&R. But it doesn’t have to be grandiose. In fact, I find that effective self care is mostly ordinary daily practices with regular doses of what feels most nourishing in the moment. This gives a great foundation for minimizing the impact of stress rather than grasping onto whatever will make me feel better when I feel like I’m spiralling out of control.
Now that we have a better understanding of what self care is and isn’t, the question is, how can we have more of it in our lives? I’ll be exploring this idea in Part 2 of the self care series.