Whenever I hear someone talk about self-care, I get a little uneasy. I think of long walks. Exercise. Bubble baths. Making myself a healthy meal. And sure, self-care can mean all of these things. But, sometimes, especially when I need them the most, I don’t want to do any of them.
While the term self-care can evoke images of pampering and relaxation and, well, feeling good. But that’s only a small part of what self-care is, and these ideas of self-care can keep us feeling stuck. Yeah, maybe I feel anxious or depressed – taking a bubble bath might just be the last thing I want to do.
So, yes, self-care can be hard. But why?
I hear it from clients fairly often, and I feel it in my own life: if I take time to do something for me, then I’m neglecting something else that will affect the people in my life negatively. However, just search “self-care” on the Internet (maybe you have!), and you’ll see argument after argument about how important self-care is. In my office, I use the example set by safety instructions on an airplane: always put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. It’s hard to benefit the people around you if you’re gasping for air. Check out this blog from The Growth Studio to read more about shifting your perspective regarding the difference between self-care and selfishness (yes, intentions matter!).
Additionally, I invite you to challenge the notion that my needs and your needs are always mutually exclusive; it might be helpful to not get overly attached to thinking about self-care as a way of meeting only your needs in any given moment. For example, for the father who loves playing the piano but feels guilty to go play for an hour because it means taking another hour away from his busy family may feel caught having to make a difficult choice. It’s easy to get tricked by false choices like this one. Sure, from time to time, he may just want to play the piano by himself, and that is okay. But could he also get some of the same needs met by teaching his son to play piano? Or doing something else creative with his family? In these cases, he might not have to make a choice between family and self-care at all.