Self-Care Isn’t What I Thought It Was

How fitting that I should find this particular picture after my writing was completed today?! Exactly what I refer to…

Consumerism is the name of the game more than ever in our western society. Interestingly enough, there is also a notable trend this past decade or so wherein people are beginning to awaken to environmental issues more as well as looking after their own health. Since marketing, particularly on social media, is at an all-time high, it shouldn’t be too surprising that ‘buying into healthy’ seems the target of many campaigns. If you have dieted or followed food trends at all, you know what I mean: organic products, smoothies, items deemed gluten-free, milk alternatives (soy, coconut, oat, almond), keto-friendly eating, vegan etc. It is the same notion with the exercise industry: gym memberships, many iterations of yoga practice, Zumba classes, Peloton machines and so on. Of course, everything I just mentioned has a price tag to it in some way, shape or form. However, buyer beware!

The notions of looking after Mother Earth and as importantly ourselves, don’t really fit into the mould of being bought and sold. With respect to the latter in this blogpost, I’m not saying that we don’t have to spend a certain amount of money on eating right and exercising because we do, but true self-care has nothing at all to do with debit or credit swipes, taps or e-transfers. It comes from within. It is an ongoing process. It is as natural as it gets. At least, that’s what I have discovered over the past four months.

I have always placed a certain amount of importance on looking after myself, but I didn’t realize that diet, working out and sleep (a big one) are only part of what’s needed to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. Especially in pandemic and recessive times. I think it’s fair to say that everyone has felt some sort of negative effects from the past two and a half years. I know that I certainly have; in fact more so than I first thought. Hence, I had to put a pause on things and attempt to re-group my personal game plan in a manner of speaking.

Back in February, I invested in something called, The Five-Minute Journal. I’ve journaled off and on my whole life, but this journal is different from all of the others that I have bought or used. One of the sections to fill out daily involves an affirmation statement, which I’ve also done many times before. It took me a month or so to find one that seemed to fit with what I truly wanted to achieve. Warning: Writing affirmations sounds easier than it really is! When I finally got the wording down pat, the ending turned out to be this, “…exercising self-care without judgement or worry.” Little did I know the impact that that daily mantra would have on how I felt. It may seem a little extreme to say that it’s been life-changing, but it has been. Did I have to spend money on the journal? Yes. Did I buy into a marketing scam of some sort in doing so? I don’t think so since I sought it out and knew nothing about it prior to picking up its soft, finely textured cover. In saying that, the cover’s tangible feel was definitely marketed a certain way, however its contents weren’t and they have been highly invaluable.

So, how is it that one little affirmation impacted my life so greatly? Bottom line—it gave me permission to genuinely rest and relax when I needed to without the guilt that often comes from taking uninterrupted down time for one’s self. Any time the thought, “I should be…” came up, I was able to remind myself that my only real job was to look after me however that had to look. That has meant resting and taking breaks more often. I conceded that basic house/yard work would get done, but other things on my endless list of to-do’s could wait as long as was needed. After all, that kind of work is always there, but the type of work that I really needed to engage in was me!! No amount of dusting or weeding could achieve that and you know what?! My husband and I have managed just fine with a tidy (not spotless) house. Funny how that works. Nothing or no one fell apart the past four months; in fact, I finally feel like I’m finally coming together and if I am together, the rest will follow, right? Right!

My new definition of self-care is all about giving myself permission to look after me—all of me—first! No matter what is going in my life. For once, I am not somewhere down the list of to-do’s—I’m at the very top. Where I should have always been and sometimes thought I was. Setting aside the guilt of doing or not doing isn’t easy, but it is necessary and extremely freeing. I still struggle with society’s idea that putting oneself first is selfish, especially as a woman. Saying no to things is one battle, but saying no to people in particular has been the most difficult. When you are investing in yourself, commitments to others becomes tricky territory. If a fair amount of time, energy or space is required for a get-together or a relationship, then it may have to get put on hold. Mind did. I couldn’t manage both my inner needs and others at the same time, so I took somewhat of a scary step backward and hoped that family/friends would understand. Thankfully, I’ve been very fortunate in that regard as I continue to navigate and set new boundaries with my personal health and wellness dictating my path. A big investment with few dollars spent. And the pay-off? Monumental! Now, if I could only market that somehow?! ;-).

2 thoughts on “Self-Care Isn’t What I Thought It Was

  1. Great post, Sue. Putting yourself first is not easy, nor does it always feel right. It’s awful to say, but it took me being home from work on medical to realize that others could take over while I took care of me, and I was OK with it. Game changer! I went back to work with a whole new attitude about myself. Of course, a few years later I retired and really came to understand self-care. I am such a slow learner. 🙄

    Liked by 1 person

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