Last night, almost completely on a whim, I joined a friend at a local line-dancing class, where she goes multiple times a week to have fun and socialize with other people. She told me about it a few weeks prior and I kept it in the back of my mind as something fun to do when I had the chance.
When I had the chance….
What was I waiting for? To fit it into my schedule? That pocket of time was free.
So I went. And I had a ball. I’m horribly rhythmless and out of shape, so dancing for over an hour had me wiped out! But in such a great way. It had been too long that I had done something just for me, that didn’t directly benefit someone else.
I didn’t feel guilty. I didn’t feel like I needed to rush home. I just felt…great.
It wasn’t until I got home that I realized a lot of what I believed about self-care was wrong. Just plain ol’ wrong.
I tried to make self-care a priority so I could have more of me to go around. So I could be a better wife, a better mother, take care of my business, to be there for my friends when they needed me without feeling like I was drained.
I was trying to take care of myself….so I could be useful to someone else. And that doesn’t work.
We can not exercise so we can have the energy and strength to play with our kids. That can be an added benefit but the goal is to exercise for you.
We can not go out with our friends for girls night so we have more patience with our family when we get home. That can be an added benefit but the goal is to interact with people you love for you.
We have to get to the point where our self-care time…is for us. Solely for our benefit.
I know you’ve heard that “oxygen mask” analogy. We’ve all heard it. You get on a plane and the safety instructions tell us to put our own oxygen masks on first, then assist others. That instruction is relevant when you’re on a plane with a small child in an emergency situation, which is why self-care enthusiasts all over have shared this same message as a way to get (mostly) women to buy into the fact that taking care of yourself first has to be the priority if you want to be useful to others.
But what if you just want to be useful to yourself?
We are women before we are anything else. Kids will grow up and move out. Husbands can pass away. The job will not always be there. But who you are as a woman — what you like to do for fun, how you handle stress, how you love (and love yourself) — is what will always be a constant.
So love on yourself. Indulge in your desires. Take time to discover who you are with the knowledge that pouring into yourself is your first responsibility. You will thank yourself later.
And in case I don’t tell you later, I’m proud of you.