L ove yourself, Yolo (you only live once), self-care—these have become buzz words in recent years. Many use them as an inspiration to live, and yet for others, it’s still a vague concept that’s hard to grasp.
Taking care of one’s self is still foreign to some as it’s still synonymous to being selfish for many. For them, it’s a waste of time and resources. They feel better about themselves when they sacrifice their own happiness and tire themselves in service of someone else.
These people think that when they self-sacrifice, they live in alignment with good values, some even associating these to religious values. It feels to them that they’re doing everybody around them a favor when they cry themselves to sleep at night. They won’t even permit thoughts of what would make them happy because they were brought up to “put yourself last.” These are messages they heard over and over again growing up, until it sounded like the only “right” way to live.
This kind of mindset results in neglecting one’s needs, like eating right, having physical exercises, connecting with friends, recharging one’s batteries, having “me” time. When we do this, we deplete our own batteries. This is akin to giving someone the oxygen mask while we lose our own breath. Many of those who think this way also get attracted to partners who would encourage this behavior, thus perpetuating the cycle.
People who live in a spiral eventually lose their zest for life, eventually forgetting who they are because they’ve over-identified with the roles they play—mother, father, boss, daughter, son, the list goes on. They dedicate their whole lives serving other’s needs, forgetting their own. Many become resentful and end up being bitter.
These often lead to relationships turning sour, be they romantic, professional or parent-child ones. Many end up blaming themselves or other people, usually when it’s already too late to fix the relationship. It’s a lose-lose situation in the end. We lose ourselves, and people we sacrificed for, lose the person within us that they knew. Individuals end up blaming themselves and each other, wondering where things went wrong when they had very good intentions.
How does one get out of this cycle and have a healthier sense of self-care?
Pause and reflect
Awareness of what is. Pause and reflect on your thoughts and behaviors. Do you often do things for others at the expense of yourself?
Believe you deserve care. You deserve care because we all do. It’s not to be earned as a reward. Taking care of yourself allows you to discover and tap into your potentials. When you ensure a positive state of your well-being, you have more to give.Create boundaries. Decide on your limits depending on where you are in your life. Sometimes this changes on a daily basis. There are times when life is more challenging, or our energy is sapped. Boundaries could be about time, finances, physical interactions or sometimes just mind space.
Learn to say no. Saying no to people and opportunities that are not good for you gives you space for things you want to say yes to.
Heal from past wounds. Deal with things in the past that made you feel unworthy of love. If you don’t, you will keep responding to memories and not to present circumstance.
Change your narrative. Find out the narrative you have about yourself and other people that stops you from taking care of yourself. Update the parts that no longer serve you. Start re-telling your story.
Challenge yourself to be better. Learn new skills, explore new activities, meet new people. Find different ways you can reveal parts of you that you haven’t discovered yet. Stretching yourself is loving yourself.
Give space for symbiotic relationships. Find people you can have healthy give-receive dynamics with. There are stages in our lives when we have more to give, and others when we need to receive more. Have healthy people in your lives to have this with.
Accept your imperfections. We are not perfect, and that is part of who we are. There maybe things we don’t like about ourselves that we don’t need to love entirely. Just learn to accept them as part of who you are, and part of life. Stop the fight inside.
Appreciate your bright spots. Most of us have a sense of what we are good at, or where we are most appreciated in. Highlight and love those about you.
Many people are afraid that when they start loving themselves, they’ll be so self-centered and selfish. The paradox is, if we take care of ourselves, we become happier and better versions of ourselves, we have more to give, and we are able to have healthier relationships, too.