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Like many women, I’m a mum. A wife. A daughter. A friend. A colleague. A neighbour. A taxpayer. A grocery shopper. A homework checker. A dog walker. A last-minute dinner prepper. A chauffer. A worrier. A Dr Googler. A ‘what’s that smell’ detector. An over-thinker. A social media scroller. A picker-upper of random socks. A people-pleaser. A walking family calendar….
I’m busy. I get shit done. But I don’t care. That is, I don’t self-care. If things get really rough, I might do a shopping centre massage or take a long bath – but I don’t self-care or self-nurture in a way that sustains, supports and nourishes me. I do whip my bra off the second I’m in the house – but I’m not sure that counts as balanced selfcare!? 😉 I don’t self-care in the way that I would want my daughter to. I don’t self-care in the way that I would want my girlfriends to. I don’t self-care in the way that I know that my heart, soul and wellbeing require.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on why, like so many women, I don’t self-care. My first thought was that it’s because I’m too busy. Whilst there’s some truth to that, the reality is that if I had to make more time for my family, work or friends, I would. I’d find the hours in the day if they needed me. So why not for myself? Well, here’s some working theories that I’ve come up with:
I feel guilty
When I think about taking regular time out for self-care – for me, I feel guilty. I feel like I should be doing something else. Like I’m letting other things slide. Like I’m letting people down. Like I’m being indulgent. Like I’m being extravagant. Like something bad might happen because I’m taking time for me. It might sound a tad dramatic, but that’s how I feel.
I feel unworthy
Like so many, I have baggage and mental health struggles that make me feel not good enough, not worthy, not deserving… When I have allowed myself self-care time or acts, that inner voice and critic has been loud. I remember wanting to buy myself a bunch of inexpensive golden fairly lights because they make me so happy to look at when it’s dark, but I refrained because I felt undeserving and indulgent. I would have bought them for a family member, friend, or heck, even a stranger (!) without giving it a second thought.
Society and conditioning
Our society values women as nurturers and caregivers. The caveat of course, is that these roles are only valued when they are others-focussed and not self-directed. We celebrate women who volunteer, serve as carers and who give and give and give, but we dismiss or pass judgement on those who ‘indulge’ in self-care or me-time. It’s an interesting and flawed dynamic that has prevailed through the ages.
“…historically, women have had to choose between their own self-care and the needs/demands of society and culture” – Tonye Barango-Tariah.
The what ifs…
What if I slow down, stop and breathe…and it all come unstuck? What if everything that I’ve been pushing down comes spilling out? What if everything unravels? What if I stop and then never want to go back to schedules, sock finding missions, bill paying and work meetings?
When I cook a meal, turn in a report for work, find a missing school hat, play with the dog, help someone solve a problem… I generally get praise and thanks and that gives me a little boost. If you’ve ever heard of the ‘5 Love Languages’, I am 100% ‘Words of Affirmation’, so someone only needs to say a ‘thank you’ or ‘good job’ and I’m doing an internal happy dance for hours. I don’t get that when I meditate, journal or set boundaries.
Where to Start?
I know that Deepak wants me to mediate, Gwyneth suggests a detox cleanse and Oprah is an advocate of journaling…but I’m in my mid-40s and I truly don’t know what self-care I need or where to even start. What do we do when we don’t know how or where to begin? Well, if you’re like me you freeze, avoid, deflect and carry on.
So, there’s my flurry of theories on why I don’t self-care. Can you relate to any of these? Whatever the reasons for the absence of self-care, I know that it needs to change. I’m not talking about another thing on the to-do list or something that I ‘should’ do. I’m talking about knowing intrinsically that adopting regular self-care is necessary if I want to find and maintain some semblance of balance, wellness, growth, self-love and authenticity. So, I’m going to start small. Regular walks in nature, more quality time with beautiful friends, face masks just because, simple conscious breathing, diffusing a favourite essential oil, practicing saying no and asking for help. I hope you’ll join me and let a little more self-care into your world. Oh, and tomorrow I’m investing in a whole bunch of fairy lights because they just make my heart so darn happy!
“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others. Maya Angelou Written by Jen MacCulloch for EVOHE Skincare.