“Self- love is not selfish. You cannot truly love another until you learn to love yourself.” -Unknown.
We don’t learn self- love and self-care in school. Sure, we learn to brush our teeth, wear clean clothes, eat right and exercise, and all of those things are crucial to our well-being, but self-care is so much more than that, and I see so many people forgoing self-care in favor of caring for others in their life, fearing that caring for themselves and taking time out of their days to recharge is a selfish act. It’s not.
Self care can be treating yourself to some at-home pampering, painting your toenails or soaking in a candlelit bath. Self care is crossing obligations off your to-do list so you don’t get overwhelmed. Self care is taking quiet time to go for a walk, journal, or meditate when life feels busy. Self care is investing in yourself by spending money on travel and classes. Self care is taking yourself out to lunch. Self care is making a delicious salad. Self care is ordering a hot fudge sundae. Self care is getting a massage, buying new socks, or clothes that make you feel beautiful, and scheduling time in your life to do the things that light you up.
Self care can be a lot of things, but it’s not selfish. If we’re not cared for by ourselves, we can’t truly give our best to others. This is about quality versus quantity. When we take care of ourselves, the quality of our giving improves.
Caring for ourselves is just as important as caring for others. We are people, too, you know, and in order to give the world and our best, and to really learn to love others, we have to learn to and practice loving and caring for ourselves every single day.
When we are holding on by a thread, exhausted, wearing the same hoodie three days in a row, jumping from one thing to the next, we are not showing up as our best selves. We’re tired, irritable, easily distracted, bad listeners, and probably a little sour to be around. Again, it’s quality over quantity. You can give the people you love more of your time, showing up with a gas tank that’s nearly on empty, or you can give a little more time to yourself, and show up at 100%, where you’re present, listening, your jokes are on fire, and you’re happy to be there with this person you love, or even engage more pleasantly with the grocery store clerk.
Learning to love and care for ourselves teaches us to do the same for others. We notice when their tank or our own is getting low, and can encourage them to fill up. We learn what fills up our hearts and souls, and how to re-energize ourselves to accomplish what needs to be done (bills, dentist appointments, chores) and set out to create what we want out of our lives (dream jobs, new hobbies, beautiful gardens, more money, a fulfilling relationship, buying a house, travelling the world.)
When our tank is empty, we’re tired! We want Netflix and frozen pizza. We’re in no state to chase dreams or visit the dentist. And sure, we can take small steps even when our tank is empty, and force ourselves to put in some hours at our side business, to go to the dentist, or ask for a raise, but there’s a lingering anxiety that the tank is running out, and we’re dragging our heels. This is not going to produce the results we want.
You have to love yourself to love others. You have to be able to see your own beauty, to care for yourself when you need it, and to do what makes you feel good.
Who are you not to receive your own love? Love doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can love and accept yourself exactly as you are, where you are, and still desire to improve. You’re a person, too, you know! If your best friend, your boyfriend, your sister, your mother, your kid, and your cat deserve pampering, gifts, attention, good meals, love, affection, relaxation, vacations, then you do, too.
You can’t rely on anyone else to fill you up. It’s a bonus when others do, making you dinner, lifting your spirits by making you laugh, buying you flowers, but this stuff ebbs and flows, and you can only rely on yourself to deliver your own soul fuel consistently.
You have to give to yourself and fill your own tank. Sure, you can wait until you run out of gas and wait on the side of the road for a stranger to come by and help you out, but that’s not reliable or consistent, and it’s going to be a much slower and more stressful process. Take responsibility for your own gas tank. Fuel yourself, feed your soul, your mind, your body. It’s selfish not to, because if you’re running on empty, you’re showing up as a half-assed version of yourself. The world needs the full-assed version of you.
Imagine what you could do if you took care to fill yourself up when you noticed your tank getting low. Imagine how it would feel to be able to recharge, relax, to take time for yourself and buy yourself nice things without feeling guilty or like you don’t deserve it. Why not you? I’ll say it again- you’re a person too you know!
I used to feel guilt every time I did nice things for myself. Learning to let that go has been essential in my day-to-day happiness and peace of mind. Now, I do nice things for myself because I love myself, and I know these things help me give more to the people I love, be more creative, more authentic, and overall happier and more pleasant to be around. Energy spreads, and you’re doing the whole room a favor if you walk in with sparkling, joyful energy. The opposite is also true. What can you do to clean up your energy?
Take time out of every day to experiment with the ways you can care for yourself, give to yourself, and recharge. What activities energize you, what clothes make you feel good every time you put them on?
Think of your favorite people to be around. If they were in a low mood all the time, and feeling insecure and holding back, would you enjoy them as much? No. So do the people that love you (including people who haven’t even met you yet) a favor and get that shit on lock. Figure out how to nurture yourself.
Here are some of my favorite ways to practice self care:
- Pampering. Take the time to run a steamy hot bath and fill it with rose soap, rose petals, and light candles makes me feel totally pampered. Something about quieting my mind, washing away the dirt, and lounging around in roses and bubbles makes me feel totally taken care of, and I come out feeling lighter and more relaxed.
- Manicure/ Pedicure. It’s ok to spend money on yourself and read a trashy magazine if it makes you feel good, even in a shallow fun kind of way. When you feel good, you make others feel good. I love DIY mani/pedis at home, too, and for me, the wilder the better.
- Dance. Seriously, dancing deserves it’s own blog post about it’s healing properties. When I tell people I was having a one-woman dance party in my living room (often in the morning time, in between coffee sips) they look at me like I have two heads, but nothing helps me tap into a joyful, lighthearted, creative state of being like dance. Literally every time I choose to dance I feel good. I feel lighthearted. Bonus points–dancing releases endorphins, which are scientifically proven to make you feel good.
- Exercise. You can make time for this. If it’s not something you’re doing on a daily basis, it is imperative that you start. Again, endorphins. You don’t have to to join a gym. You don’t need a personal trainer. If that is an appealing and affordable option to you, than by all means do it, but you can go on half hour walks, dance in your living room, do body weight exercises at home, hike, bike, run, jump rope, chase a toddler around a playground, sprint, stretch, do yoga. If you need guidance, you can find workouts for free on YouTube and all over the internet. You can swim, ski, snowshoe, jump on a trampoline or up and down, skip through a park, roller skate- the possibilities are endless, and you can incorporate play with movement. You will give yourself a necessary daily dose of endorphins, you’ll regulate your hormones, feel and look better, and keep your body functioning as you age.
- Journal. I’ve been journaling daily for two decades, and it has offered me relief, perspective, and some very interesting records. Since hand writing is physical, it’s easy to get into a meditative state of flow and use journaling to actually clear your head by transferring it to paper. It can help you discover what you want and how to get it, work through difficult decisions and emotions, and count your blessings.
- Buy yourself flowers. You don’t need a romantic interest to do this for you. You can buy yourself flowers any time.I find that having fresh flowers around my house lifts my spirits and I light up inside every time I see them, and so for me, this is totally worth it.
- Say no. This is another blog post in itself, but you don’t have to over-commit yourself. You don’t have to say yes to every invitation if you’re starved for “me time.”
- Eat well. Spend the money on healthy food, spend the time to cook it, take yourself out to eat, buy the cupcake or the doughnut. Nourish your body, eat food that tastes good and makes you feel energized after. Allow yourself to indulge in chocolate and pizza. Live a little.
- Dress how you like. Wear clothes you love that make you feel beautiful and inspired. You’re not doing anyone any favors by dressing to blend in. Forget about what others might think of your clothing choices, take a deep breath, and wear something that you feel fabulous in.
- Meditate. Meditation is literally sitting, laying, or walking, and breathing while clearing your head. Sounds easy enough, but just breathing and not thinking is actually pretty difficult. Thoughts do and will come up, but you can let them pass, and watch them without engaging with them or judging them. Just notice them and let them pass by like clouds in the sky. Meditating has changed my life immensely. It has made me more focused, more calm, and much more disciplined in choosing my thoughts.
- Gratitude List. Take time to write down and count your blessings
- Make Friend Dates a Priority. While self care is often about “me time,” sometimes, it’s important we prioritize time with our friends because that fills us up, too, and when life gets busy, it’s imperative to make time for the people who light you up inside.
- Take Yourself on a Date. Get comfortable and learn to love spending time with yourself, and doing the things you want to do with just your own company, because sometimes you won’t always have a companion to go with you, and you’ll miss out on a lot of life if you can’t go just “me, myself, and I.” Take the class, the lesson, go the art show, the street fair, the show.
- Take Vacations. Plan for them, budget for them, take them on a whim. Take a plane, take a car, or take a staycation. Time off is essential in checking in, truly resting, relaxing, and reflecting on where you are and where you want to go. Vacations are not only the ultimate re-charge, but they offer us a lot of perspective, too, when we can step away from our day-to-day.
- Pay yourself compliments and remind yourself how far you’ve come. Seriously. Build yourself up, build others up, we are better and have a skip in our step when we feel good. Again, you can wait for others to pay you a compliment, or you can learn to pay yourself one and feel good more often. Don’t rely on others to feel good or offer you their approval. Give it to yourself. Your life will open up and become so much easier when you do.
- Take Care of Business. Seriously, it’s not fluffy and it’s usually not fun, but you will feel so much better when you knock of those trips to the DMV, dentist, post office, and grocery store. Rid yourself of the weight and take care of your health.
- Organize your life. Having a Calender, and better yet a day planner, is a game changer. Setting a goal and seeing it written down on that day of the week as opposed to “write for thirty minutes every day” floating around somewhere in your already very full, brilliant head, is much more effective at getting the task at hand complete.
Self care is a topic too big for one blog post, but this is about getting past any guilt or limiting beliefs that taking care of yourself, taking time for yourself, and spending money on yourself is selfish. Please re-frame your thoughts about this, and understand that you are a person, too, and when you take care of yourself, you are so much more capable in caring for others. If you care about humanity, care for yourself.