Self-care – that old chestnut. Right now, it feels like we can’t move for people telling us we should care about ourselves.
It’s great in theory, but what about in practice?
Many of us yearn for healthy self-esteem. We think “if I lose weight that will make me feel better about myself” but, while it might make us feel better physically, it doesn’t increase how much we care about ourselves.
Let’s consider first what self-care isn’t. It isn’t pushing yourself to do far more exercise than your body wants. That’s self-punishment. It isn’t making yourself eat food you don’t really enjoy because it’s considered “right” by someone else. That’s self-denial. It isn’t focusing on your appearance at the expense of your emotional wellbeing. That’s self-neglect.
There’s also a common misconception that self-care is self-indulgent – like regular pampering sessions at a spa or weekly trips to the beauty salon. And sometimes it’s seen as simply self-discipline, such as practising yoga religiously or meditating every day without fail.
For me, self-care isn’t about being self-indulgent or self-disciplined.
It’s about the message we give ourselves.
We give ourselves a message every time we ignore our self-care: every time we don’t allow ourselves to rest when we need to; or don’t let ourselves have fun; or don’t give ourselves the food we really want; or deny our body movement when it asks for it. In each case the message is “I’m not worth caring about. I don’t matter. My needs are not important”.
On the other side of the coin, every time we show we do care, we send ourselves a powerful message: “I’m worth caring about. I matter. My needs are important”. The more we practice self-care, the more this message is reinforced. In that way, we prove to ourselves that we care.
Saying it isn’t enough: action is everything.
If you’re thinking “I don’t know where to start” – that’s your starting point. Taking the time to explore what would make you feel cared about is, in itself, an act of self-care.
To help you, here are some suggestions. See if any resonate with you:
Give yourself your time first
We give away so much of our time it can feel like there’s not enough for ourselves. When you’re feeling rushed, self-care is the first thing to go out the window and you’re likely to turn to food to compensate. Your time is a precious commodity, make sure you’re getting enough of it yourself – nobody deserves your time more than you.
Silence your inner bully
Wow, I just won’t let up about this, will I? That nasty voice in your head does nothing for you so tell it to Shut The F*** Up. No one can do this for you. If I could, I would. Each time you prove to yourself that you care – despite what your inner critic says – you take a step closer to defeating it.
Eat exactly what you want
Take the time to think about and prepare exactly what you want to eat. What would taste good, feel good and completely satisfy you? Beware of the part of you that says “I can’t be bothered” and has you reaching for something quick but unsatisfying. Be bothered. Take the time. Give yourself exactly what you want – you deserve it.
Use the “Good China”
The Good China represents anything that you only save for “guests” or “best” but rarely use just for you. Use the good olive oil, those special towels, that lovely candle you’ve been saving. When you do, you give yourself the message “I’m as important as anyone else”.
Embed a sense of gratitude into your life
If you have a tendency towards negativity or pessimism (hello me) it’s difficult to appreciate what’s good about your life or what’s going well for you. There’s no better way to redress the balance by regularly noticing what you’re grateful for. Take the time to think about it, write it down or express it in any way you want. The difference this can make to your wellbeing is astonishing.
Self-care is fluid, not fixed. It changes and evolves according to our needs. It’s being attuned enough to ourselves to understand what we need and then caring enough to give it to ourselves. Otherwise, we use food as a replacement.
Self-care is often about the little things – the little things you appreciate that bring you pleasure. My blogging friend Lol Murray of Minimal-lol describes this perfectly in her post “My Boutique Wardrobe!”. How can a simple coathanger be part of self-care? Read Lol’s wonderful post to find out (click on the title).
If your relationship with food and yourself feel dysfunctional and chaotic, then self-neglect isn’t working for you. Maybe it’s time to try some self-care.
You’re allowed to care for yourself – as we all are – so give yourself permission.
Because you do matter, you do count and your needs are just as important as anyone else’s. That I know for sure. Do you?