I used to think of self-care as something “extra.” Something I do to treat myself after I get done with all the work of adulthood — paying bills, getting work done, tending to my children.
But I’ve since learned that I can not be the best me if I’m not regularly tending to myself.
When I talk to women about self-care and urge them to put themselves first, the biggest pushback I hear is that they feel guilty about spending time and money on themselves.
And I get it. I used to waste time feeling guilty too. (And yes, I mean “wasting time.”)
Let me ask you: do you feel guilty when you brush your teeth or comb your hair? Do you feel guilty when you shower or clip your toenails? No, you consider it regular maintenance and something everyone should do.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: self-care is no different. Self-care is simply “maintenance of self,” both physically and mentally. You get to define how that looks.
So if you’re feeling guilty about it, you’re probably focusing on the wrong things. Here are three of the most common reasons women tell me they feel guilty and my three responses which basically boil down to, “Girl, you better go ‘head and treat yourself!”
“I dunno…I just feel weird about it.”
Children do not have a problem with this. Spend time with a three-year-old and it’s ME, ME, ME all day. They’re great at self-care. Somewhere along the line you stopped putting yourself first. Maybe it was high school or college. Maybe it was after the birth of your first child or a big promotion that caused you to spend most of your waking hours at work. Maybe it was when you got into this serious relationship and instead of continuing to get to know yourself, you spent a gazillion hours cuddling with bae. (Hey, I’ve done it too!)
My response? Remember that you deserve this. You do not have to do anything special to earn some me-time or to put yourself first.
“I feel guilty being away from my kids.”
Did I ever tell you the story of how every time I tried to leave the house, my kids would grab my ankles and beg me not to go? They did not do this to their father, whose weekly basketball game (his version of self-care) was set in stone. I now know that I should have gently pried their little hands loose, kissed them on their foreheads and told them to have daddy entertain them while Mommy had some alone time.
Mean? Maybe. But it won’t kill them. My kids need to understand what self-care is and they can’t do it if they don’t see it. They need a living, breathing example of what it looks like when a woman tends to herself, both physical and mentally. They will grow up knowing how to take care of themselves, because you did it first.
“I feel like XYZ will implode if I leave.”
Eh, you know that’s not true. And if it is? Some things have to change because if a house/job/family stops functioning when you step out for a breather, then it’s dysfunctional. Enlist some help. If your children are countertop height (stop laughing – that’s how I measure my kids!), they need to be helping more around the house. If your job falls into disarray after every vacation or sick day, reevaluate how you can get some more competent help. You’ll have to put in the work now but once you’ve done that, it will be a piece of cake moving forward.