Whether you’re a parent, a city high-flier, a hard-working student (or maybe you’re even all three!), it’s often impossible to carve out some time for ourselves.
When we do carve out time for ourselves, there seems to be a really shit culture that we should feel bad for being what’s perceived as ‘self-indulgent’. This can then put us off any form of self-care, because of course, the ensuing guilt we feel afterwards ultimately negates the act of self-care in the first place, causing it to get further and further down the list of priorities.
Sometimes it’s because we feel that we should be utilising that spare time to spend more time with the kids; perhaps you feel like you don’t spend enough time with them as it is, or maybe when you take that all-important break from work, you spend your day off thinking about what you didn’t complete before you left, or worrying about what you’ll come back into, or maybe your uni assignment due in is hanging over your head..?
One of my favourite sayings is ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’. To me, this means that you just simply can’t give anything you’re all, if you’re not feeling all yourself. If I’m anxious, or stressing about work or similar, I’m not really present in the moment, and I think that’s what you have to remind yourself of when you start to get the guilts about taking time to be look after yourself; the idea that this is an indulgence is where we’re falling down; it’s an important part of feeling our best.
You have to change your focus from thinking of this time as selfish – what’s selfish is to only give half of yourself to the things you think are important; you deserve to enjoy being present, and you deserve to be able to give yourself wholly to what ever it is you’re doing. You don’t expect a plant to flower immediately; you put it near the light, somewhere warm, you water it, you make sure it’s rooted in the right soil, and wait patiently for it to flower, once it’s in an environment where it can do so.
So next time you decide not to have that bath with your book, because you think you’re better off staying in the office until past 8pm, ask yourself when you’ll do the better job: when you’re tired, stressed and at the end of a long day? Or, if you go home, have a bath, read your book, call a friend, have a glass of wine and a slab of chocolate as big as your head, get a great night’s sleep and get in the next day to undertake the task feeling contented and well rested?
It’s a hard internal – and external – narrative to change, but I’ve found turning it on it’s head like this really helps – and the same goes for those small little acts of self-care we all need to indulge in from time to time. For example when we commit to a week of no drinking, but have a slight slip up. Or when we promise ourselves we’ll get to the gym for six am but snooze the alarm to sleep in a little longer because we’re tired. We seem to spend so much time punishing ourselves for things that can be easily remedied the next day.
Guilt is something hugely ingrained in us; you’re supposed to look like a model (thanks, media!), but you’re not supposed to be showy about the way you look. You’re supposed to be a stay-at-home Mum, but you shouldn’t be because you should be a high-powered career woman. You’re supposed to stick to a certain diet, which involves setting aside a few hours every night to cook from scratch, although if you land yourself a Hello Fresh subscription you’re still doing things the lazy way – It’s even rammed down our throats when we log on to Pinterest; “Start today so you don’t regret tomorrow!” “What are you waiting for?” and on and on the list goes; it seems you can’t do right for doing wrong these days.
We need to stop this; the next time you’re hesitating about getting that early night, or cancelling those plans because you need some time to yourself, actively acknowledge the fact you’re feeling guilty and then remind yourself why you want to do these things; so that you can be at your best self the next day after a full-night’s sleep, remind yourself that you want to be all-present with friends… that ultimately, you’ll do a better job at what you’re turning your hand to when you feel more fulfilled in yourself.
Let’s stamp out this micro-stigma of feeling guilty for doing the things that help make us feel like ourselves. It’s time to feel good about feeling good.