I have a confession to make, dear reader. I can’t think straight. Is it the full moon? Is it the change of medication? Is it apathy? Whatever it is, I fear I may disappoint you with today’s post. But, if I don’t write, I’ll disappoint myself – because I’ve made a promise to yours truly to write at least once a week – and that, fans, is more important to me than your feelings.
It’s a bit ironic that I’m worried about disappointing you, while writing a post about self-care; Proof that even though I’ve come a long way since I started my journey last spring, there is still work to be done.
My journey started last summer when I realized I was more concerned about others’ happiness than I was about my happiness. “You have a high tolerance for bad behavior”, my therapist had said. At first, I was pleased until I realized she hadn’t meant this as a compliment. What she meant was I had been conditioned not to expect anything from anyone and to give until I had nothing left to give. I took a hard look at this and dove headfirst into something I never experienced.
It took several months for me to wrap my brain around the idea that self-care and selfishness are not the same things – despite what I had been led to believe. I went over to the ‘self-care’ wading pool and dipped my big toe in. I realized that scheduling a monthly massage, a facial here and there, and buying quality wine were all very enjoyable. And, to this day, I still manage to include all that when I feel my inner ‘instapot’ about to blow. But what I learned this year about self-care is a bit harsher but honestly something I needed to know and embrace if I were to gain any momentum in caring for myself.
What did you learn? You ask. Hmmm. Grab a drink. And settle in, because I’m about to tell you.
1) Self-care requires letting go of relationships, habits, and choices that are familiar but no longer serve you. I broke up with my guy for a while. I embraced singlehood by not dating but instead exploring what it is that makes me happy. I stopped working late. I started devising a plan to shut down my massage therapy business by my 50th birthday. I can’t say that I don’t care if people are disappointed; I think that’s always going to be part of who I am. I can say, though, that I care less than I used to.
2) Don’t neglect yourself taking care of someone else. I’ve learned that I don’t owe anyone my time, money, or emotional support. I could tell you stories about the last ten years that would leave you scratching your head and saying (outloud) “What the fuck were you thinking?” I’ll tell you what I was thinking. I was thinking: If I don’t say yes, they will be mad. Just fill in the blanks on who ‘they’ are. It could have been anyone. Making people mad was, in my opinion, the scariest thing on the planet. (Hello? Co-dependent much??) Now, I’ve learned I certainly can freely give any of those, but if I can’t do it joyfully, then is that fair to anyone? I wish I could go back in time and redo all the times I let people run over me with their manipulation and guilt trips. The girl standing here now is not the girl of, I dunno – even two years ago. I’ve even learned to tell my son that I need quiet time to think or head off to some camper in the woods when I need a break from everyone else. I don’t apologize for this anymore, even if I know people will be angry or disappointed. I can’t give 100% when there’s only 70% in the bucket.
3) Self-care means being honest with yourself. I can’t go into a lot of details about this, but I’m coming to terms with the fact that I made decisions in the past to help other people…only to realize that these decisions didn’t help me at all. Recently I’ve been asked why I’m not in a management position. Why in the world, with two graduate degrees, are you in an entry level job? Um. Because I want to be and the reasons are none of your business.
4) Boundaries will scare some people. I am under no obligation to answer a text, respond to an email, or share my resources. I can, if I want to, but people who are used to violating boundaries will always find a reason to paint those who set boundaries as horrible, mean people. It’s up to you – and me – to be brave enough to tell them to go fuck themselves. Okay. Maybe not outloud, but you know.
5) Prepare to disappoint people. When you say no to a dinner out, to a party, to a project, or an unliked activity, someone may get their feelings hurt and may be disappointed. They may even use tactics to manipulate you. Resist the urge to care. Please – do yourself a favor and watch this Ted Talk and then start creating your budget. You’ll thank me, I promise.
6) Last but not least…Self-care is the hardest when it is needed the most. When you have worked yourself to death on a project and neglected the other things, it may be tempting to dive back into your to-do list. I urge you not. Americans are horrible at taking a vacation or mental health days. I’m not going to lie – I work somewhere I love, but honestly, we often joke that no one can ‘afford’ to take a vacation because of the amount of work necessary to prepare to be off and then catch up when you get back. Seriously! This doesn’t seem right. You are no good to anyone if you can’t replenish. So. Put in for that vacation. Leave the laptop at home. Tell people you went to the Bermuda Triangle, even if you are seriously just staying home and downloading pirated copies of movies. If it suits you, lie. Really. Lie as your life depends on it because you know, it just might.
That’s my post today. I seem cranky, don’t I? I am. I honestly am a bit grumpy. I get tired of eye rolls and questions when I explain I need time alone. I don’t have to explain myself to anyone – I’m a grown-ass woman – but I find myself placating people who can’t understand why I’d rather be alone than with them, why my relationship is a bit ‘unconventional’, why I make the decisions I make, etc.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to work hard this week not to care as much, and you, dear reader, will hold me to it.
As we part today, I leave you with a song. If you are tired of putting everyone in front of yourself, grab some earbuds and take a listen. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.