It’s taken me an entire lifetime to internalize and act on the notion that taking care of myself was not as selfish at it appeared on the surface. I’ve had to experience, both personally and vicariously, the detrimental effect of self-neglect – when energy was sapped, spirit was wounded, and health was jeopardized.
I know I’m not at my best without enough rest, but still am tempted to push through a series of 14 hour work days. I know that I need a balance of “me” time and “we” time, yet I’m hesitant to say no to an invitation to a social event even though I desperately need quiet, by myself time. I’m well aware that exercise is good for my body, mind and soul and still schedule a week of work where it is virtually impossible to squeeze in a short walk or workout.
I know that when I take care of myself, I am better able to take care of others. My work is better. I am focused and present. I have good energy and good humor. My mind is clear and I have abundant energy.
And still, when I turn down an invitation, when I block time for exercise or reflection or quiet time, why does it feel so self-centered, so selfish, so uncaring?
I could blame my upbringing. There were certainly strong messages internalized about the value of hard work. I could blame my nature to help others. That is clearly a part of the equation. And, I could blame society for the constant messaging that as women, we have very little claim to our bodies, our labor and should lead a life of service (or sacrifice) to others.
There is an element of truth in all of that; but the bigger truth is that I am a grown up person living in choice.
The Self-Care Stoplight
As such, I’ve determined that in order to avert my fear of being too self-obsessed, I’d create some warning signs for either extreme. When I am either neglecting myself in sacrifice of something or someone else OR when I am overly self-focused, I’ll use these as stop lights urging me to get back to center lane.
My goal is to avoid the red and stay in the green. I’ll think of these as warning sirens for my soul!