I have worked with some of the most selfless, caring, and loving individuals that have somehow mastered the ability to take care of everyone in their world…except for themselves. This can be especially challenging for people in a helping field of work (doctors, therapists, stay at home moms, teachers, clergy- the list goes on). I have often seen this lead to patterns of codependency, enabling, over-functioning, and a loss of sense of self. What people don’t seem to get is this: Taking care of yourself IS taking care of others. If you are healthy, strong, and emotionally well, then you are more able to contribute, to be present, and more fully engaged in relational transactions.
What you can’t forget is what they teach you as soon as you are seated on an airplane: If the plane is crashing down or there is an airplane emergency at hand, who do you put the oxygen mask on first? You. Why? Because you are no good to those around you if your basic needs are not being met first. Basically, there is no “we” without “you”.
It is interesting, and also validating, that much of my graduate studies were based on self-care and self-exploration in order to become a stronger therapist. Assignments consisted of prioritizing self-care activities and presenting it to our colleagues. It seemed selfish to me at the time to actually pay for a self-care service (I opted to go for a massage). I mean, who does that?! I felt undeserving of 30 minutes of relaxation. This is what our world has come to! We must begin to prioritize our own self-care, because it does affect our partners, our marriages, and our friendships. It is what allows us to be able to show up for the important ones in our life.
I often tell my clients who are afraid to take those steps toward self-care and allowing themselves to do something for themselves, this: Self-concern is not selfishness.
Self-concern means you care about yourself and your loved ones. Self-concern means that, yes, you are important and worthy of that 30 minute massage because you want to be your best for yourself and your relationships. Self-concern means that I am taking this time for myself to fill up, so that when I am with you I can be fully present and able to give the best of me to you. Self-concern is NOT bad! In fact, it is the best place to start if you would like to see improvement in yourself and your relationships. I recommend starting with one form of self-care each day this week. I encourage you to do a little self-exploration and try some things you have never done: Read a book, go for a bike ride, or whip out that recipe you’ve been wanting to make (and enjoy it all to yourself!).
What self-care will you do for yourself today?