Massages, manicures, pedicures, feel-good activities: I always used to think these constituted self-care, and they do but just a small portion. Real self-care has so many components. One of which is finding value in just being me and taking care of that me.
What does that mean? It means I came home after yoga one day last week and made myself lunch rather than picking something up or going through a drive-thru like Taco Bell. It means giving up a lifelong habit of diet coke. I grew up on diet sodas, a lot of diet sodas. If I drank one once in a while it wouldn’t be a big deal, but the daily habit not so good.
I remember, as a teenager, cutting out soda coupons and buying stacks of diet soda. I’d subsist on diet sodas and sweets, so it’s no wonder I have a hard time giving them up. One day, though, I just decided not to drink them anymore, and that lifetime habit went away in a puff.
A year ago I started a major decluttering project. I went through most of my apartment and got rid of so many things, yet over the past year piles resurfaced. Self-care means looking at why these piles returned. I either need to get rid of stuff or to put it back when I’m done with it.
I’ve also discovered that decluttering is a gradual project. There were things I owned a year ago that I thought I had to keep. Now, however, I’m finding I can let them go and create more space for new things, new moments, new memories, new experiences.
THE UNPLEASANT TRUTH ABOUT SELF-CARE
Self-care doesn’t always feel so good. In fact sometimes it’s painful. I really don’t care for it. How’s that for reality? Self-care means really taking care of myself. Spending time just being. And that feels so uncomfortable and painful.
I’m not sure why I find self-care so hard, so cumbersome. It’s like there’s a part of me that doesn’t think I matter, a part of me that doesn’t like myself. Sometimes that’s the mantra that plays in my head. I that makes some people uncomfortable, but so what? It’s how I feel.
Self-care is putting away the dishes when the dishwasher is done. Self-care is being able to look in the mirror and saying, “I value you enough to take care of you. I value you enough to love you. I value you enough to put you first.” I don’t do that, but I need to.
I need to wake up in the morning and feel good about being me and making whatever choices I make.
Self-care is waking up in the morning and deciding to have a healthy breakfast. One morning when my heater didn’t work and the apartment was 57 degrees I made hot tea and oatmeal and had some dates with it. Self-care is having fruit in the house instead of potato chips. If I buy potato chips I’ll eat the whole bag.
I’m not sure when or where self-care became so darn difficult, but it is and always has been. I do believe I find stronger gratification when I look outside my self. I don’t find value in my self unless others find value in me. That’s how I got to be morbidly obese and that’s why recovery feels so hard. So painful.
I see where I want to go. I see that I strive to be a strong independent woman who doesn’t need the approval of others to feel good or to function. Seeing where I want to go and getting there are two different things.
I spent many years focusing on the end goal, which always involved me being skinnier and having a thinner physique. It certainly didn’t involve me being fat. I have long believed that all my problems would simply dissipate if I lost weight.
For longer than I care to think about self-care involved thinking about the right diet—what latest miracle cure would help me shed the pounds. I tried so many crazy ones, including The Beverly Hills Diet, which required eating a lot fruit, sometimes only one type of fruit in a day. Oh yes. For all those years self-care=diet. I don’t want to spend one more second of my life in that treacherous hell-bound insanity of diet land.
I no longer wish to live in diet land. I no longer wish to live in the perils of my mind. The thoughts in my head are not always kind. Self-care involves shutting those voices up. Those voices that tell me I am not worthy. Self-care means allowing myself to feel loved by myself. To feel at peace. Just the way things are. Just to feel peace.
Self-care involves putting myself first. I’ve never been good at that. But now is the time. I came home tonight and made myself a vegetable stir-fry instead of eating a cookie and getting a sugary drink. The paradox is that it doesn’t always feel good in the moment, but it does feel better in the long run. And that matters so much more than instant gratification.
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