My Sister-in-Law and niece gave me a beautiful deck of Self-Care cards for Christmas. I used to think that self care was taking bubble baths, getting a pedicure or pampering myself. It can include those things, but it’s really more about an inquiry into what I need and following through on providing what I need. I have a practice now in the mornings or when I’m feeling down where I do a body scan and ask myself “What do you need?” It is rarely taking a bubble bath, getting a pedicure or pampering myself. It’s more often something like forgiving myself for a mistake, giving myself a hug and saying I love you or getting connected with friends. It is truly about caring enough about myself that I will meet my own needs.
While in therapy after my second divorce, I learned that it was more important for me to take care of myself than to find a man to take care of me. It is also infinitely more practical. Whereas I may have been angry with my ex for not being financially responsible, it was more important that I be financially responsible and set boundaries in that area. It wasn’t his fault he was spending my money and imperiling my future savings, it was mine for giving over access to an unreliable partner. I felt so powerful when I made that decision to protect myself and acted on my own behalf. I did not anticipate how that would feel. Setting boundaries and taking charge of my financial future was an act of self care.
When I was running this morning, I listened to a podcast on Hidden Brain about self-compassion. I chose it because I went to bed last night irritated with myself about eating too many sweets the last couple of days. I enjoyed them, but I have to really be careful with sugar. It can make me feel really bad physically and trigger depressive episodes. I was beating myself up for once again going down that sugary rabbit hole. If I’m honest, my run started out being a punishment run and not one based in self-care.
Beautiful Day for a Run….
The guest on the podcast was Psychologist Kristin Neff. She had an affair early in her life that ruined her first marriage. She talked about how she beat herself up for years over that mistake. She was introduced to the concept of self-compassion in a mindfulness workshop. She learned that being compassionate with herself for making a mistake and not being true to her values was more effective in helping her learn from that mistake. We think that shaming ourselves will help us do better but it honestly sets us up for failure, disconnection from others and self-harm. And for all you naysayers, there’s research to prove it. Besides, she says that if we think we are so great that we should never make mistakes, then we are believing we are better than others. Why would I be so perfect that I couldn’t overdo sugar on the holidays like most everybody else? I was just being human and enjoying the gifts of the season.
I got home from my run and pulled one of my self-care cards. My card asked me to be a friend to myself just like I would to others. What would I tell a friend of mine that overate over the holiday and didn’t feel good? I would tell them today is a new day and I, too, overate. I’d also tell them that neither one of us has to be perfect today either. When there is so much sugar around with all of the stress – and celebration – of the holidays, of course I might overdo it. And maybe there is something non-food related I could do that might make me feel more in control and make better choices today. I ran this morning. That helped. I came home and cooked a big pot of chili and made a cup of tea. I don’t feel like overeating right now, and all of that feels like self-care – no bubble bath needed. However, I’m not ruling it out for this afternoon. 🙂
What do you really need for yourself today? How could you meet that need? Would being more compassionate with yourself for your lack of perfection be helpful?