I wrote a post in December 2019 about the five gifts to give yourself. That was pre-pandemic in the U.S. Nearly three months before we had any idea of the road ahead. And you know what? Shockingly, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I say “shockingly” because I tend to look back at what I’ve done and think I coulda shoulda done better. And at that time it was easy to be sanguine about the future. But I know how we are. You know it, too. Even with all we’ve been through – and continue to experience – we tend to think self-care is selfish.
But the truth is, self-care ISN’T selfish.
So, back to the gifts to give yourself. Here’s a quick recap:
I listened to a recent interview with Susan Rice, U.S. National Security Advisor from 2013 to 2017. She’s been under pressure in a way that most of us will – gratefully – never experience. Yet each of us has our own pressures, which are no less significant.
What stood out to me in particular was when the interviewer noted how Rice had managed a complicated life with a great deal of elegance. She was asked about her hacks for managing a really robust professional career along with a robust personal life (marriage and kids).
I loved her response!
First, she said “No one does it perfectly or to their own satisfaction.”
So true. It’s easy to see someone’s “outsides” and make assumptions. But honestly, we’re each doing the best we can in the moment (thank you, Brene’ Brown!). What if we decide it’s not supposed to be perfect and that’s part of the journey?
Then Rice acknowledged that along the way she learned there are certain things we can control. And that those are the ones we should focus on.
I love that she started with mindset. Simply put, “I can’t do it perfectly, and that’s okay. I will focus on what I can control.”
That’s 80% of the battle, my friends. The stories we tell ourselves control our lives. Ruminating on being busy and overwhelmed, regret of past decisions, or feeling sorry for ourselves, are all unhelpful. And our results suffer. We suffer.
Reworking our mindset is the most effective tool to change our behavior and get the results we want.
Rice continued, “I really tried to take care of myself. To sleep as much as I reasonably could. To exercise as much as I reasonably could. And to prioritize time with family and friends, because that was rejuvenating time and gave me…the strength and perspective to deal with the things I couldn’t control.”
Notice that when asked for hacks she didn’t mention a productivity app or how to get more done in less time. She went right to the foundation of what’s essential to operate at the highest level: Self-care.
Maybe you make self-care a priority. But if not, brainstorm all the ways you might begin. (And if you sometimes think self-care is selfish, take a peek at last month’s blog.) How can you take care of yourself to do all that you have in front of you?
Wherever you are on the scale of self-care, remind yourself there’s no perfect. The idea that there is “perfect” can cause as much stress as whatever else we think! If anything, start imperfect and know that it all counts. Start with mindset. 😊
Do you find yourself saying yes when you wish you’d said no? Do you consistently sacrifice your own self-care to take care of others? If so, you’re not alone!
Women tell me all the time that they feel selfish taking care of themselves, or saying no to the requests of others. Why is that?
We’re taught as young girls to not be selfish. To share. Good things that I hope girls and boys are being taught today.
But who did the teaching? And how did they define “selfish?” A Psychology Today article notes that many parents unwittingly label children as selfish out of their own feelings and issues. This label can give children the message that their own desires are inappropriate.
If we check the dictionary, selfish is defined as “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.”
It’s that last piece that’s easily left off. But what we know is that self-care benefits others as well as us. Consider the oxygen mask demonstration on an airplane – we need to secure our own mask before helping someone who needs our assistance. An over-used analogy, maybe, but true! The reality is:
“Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.” ~ Parker Palmer
Working with coaching clients, they often interpret self-care as “treating” themselves with food, wine or binge watching Netflix. It’s the sense of deserving it after a long day at work, taking care of everything and everyone else.
But they deserve so much more! Think about it…does it make sense to say “I deserve to over-eat.”? Of course not. But that’s in essence what they say.
So, let’s redefine self-care with things like:
Being gracious to ourselves when we make a mistake
Saying “no” when we’re at capacity or when we simply want to rest
Eating foods that are nutritious and taste good
Getting sufficient rest
Moving our bodies in ways that are enjoyable and strengthen us
What would you add to the definition? What would it look like if you were to take really good care of yourself? To treat yourself well? To be in integrity with what’s most important to you?
In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul writes “…for the whole law is summed up in a single commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” But with the way many people treat themselves, they wouldn’t have many “neighbors” left if they treated them likewise.
Note the command presumes we truly love ourselves. It does not mean people pleasing. It doesn’t mean consistently putting the needs and desires of others above our own well-being.
The question to answer is: How will you care for yourself so that you show up for others in meaningful and important ways?