I’m sure you know by now that the majority of the holistic community is preaching about self care… but there are a few facets of this that nobody seems to be discussing. The internet has erupted with “how to” guides on practicing self care: everything from getting a mani-pedi to honoring your feelings now falls into this category. If you’re sifting through Pinterest boards and Facebook feeds, you’re bound to find hundreds of how-to’s, but why practice self care if we don’t know what makes it so important?
After years of coaching people on how to take care of themselves, and what it means to practice self care, I’ve found that this runs a whole lot deeper than “how-to” guides and feel-good affirmations. In my practice, this conversation comes up in nearly every session. More often than not, my clients know that they should be practicing self care, but experience a great deal of resistance in doing so.
Instead of giving you another guide to self care, I’m flipping this upside down and unpacking the resistance you may experience, and explaining the hidden benefits (and potential hiccups) of all these self-care regimens.
It forces you to set boundaries.
Uh oh… I already see your alarm bells going off, but it’s true. When you begin to make yourself a priority, and communicate “I matter,” to yourself and those around you, it puts you in a position where you will have to set boundaries. Boundaries = saying “no.”
I find that this is the very first road block with my clients, they don’t want to tell people “no” and they definitely don’t want to set boundaries. I don’t blame them either - setting boundaries can be really challenging, and even cause conflict in the beginning when we aren’t used to setting them.
Think of this like flexing a muscle that’s really weak for the first time. The muscle shakes unsteadily, and as you build strength, it's sore and fatigued for the first week or two. As you practice, it gets easier, stronger, and more stable. Boundaries are the exact same. With enough practice, setting them becomes easier. You find your voice and are able to communicate your boundaries effectively, people begin to respect your time more, and you experience less resistance in setting them.
The core message of self care is to put yourself at the top of your priority list (yes, this goes for all you parents out there too). If you are busy taking care of other people personally or professionally, chances are, you struggle with setting boundaries or practicing self care. Keep in mind that this is a practice - not something that gets perfected overnight. Little by little, as your start making time for yourself and adjusting your priorities, you will begin to set boundaries with people and they will eventually respect them (so long as you value yourself and stay consistent).
Your energy seems limitless.
The important thing to remember here is that your energy IS NOT limitless, but if you incorporate regular self care as a means of maintenance opposed to luxury, you will be able to keep your energy stores full and avoid depletion. I understand first hand what it’s like to burn the candle at both ends and experience adrenal fatigue, burnout, anxiety - all of it. The funny thing about self care is that you have to slow down, to speed up.
Adjusting your mindset from “self care is a luxury” to “self care is a necessity” is essential for keeping your energy levels consistent. In order to get to this place, you have to let go of the idea that your energy is always endless… because it’s not. When you start on the path of self care and giving back to yourself consistently, your energy will stabilize and support you, rather than drain from your pores. That doesn’t mean you’ll never get tired or have long days, but burnout will get father away as your fill your tank on the regular.
TIP: Don’t overthink this. Self care is not rocket science, it’s a practice. In the beginning, it might look like reading a chapter of a book each night, taking a yoga class twice a month, or getting back into your exercise routine. I’m sure all of us would like to get to the point where we have the time and resources to get 90 minute massages every Tuesday, practice meditation every morning, have our pilates instructor work us out every Thursday in private sessions, and get acupuncture on Friday afternoons… but this generally isn’t how self care starts, so keep your expectations reasonable. Let go of this perfect picture of self care, and do what you can wherever you are in life.
Your self esteem goes up.
Think about this for a moment… when you take care of yourself, you are making yourself a priority, and communicating (consciously or otherwise) that you are important.
Let’s face it, not all of us grew up with glowing, loving parents who supported us unconditionally and nurtured our self concept. Many of us grew up with parents unable to provide the necessary support to foster healthy, balanced self esteem - making us particularly resistant to prioritizing ourselves.
If this experience somehow resonates with your own life, there’s a good chance you will find that in your efforts to create a self care practice, you will make excuses and find ways to avoid doing it. There are so many times when I’m in a session listening to people struggle with their own resistances about practicing self care.
“I don’t have time.”
“No, I don’t have five minutes to myself.”
“I’m so busy, I barely have time to cook.”
“No, I’m taking care of my sick mother-in-law and can’t do that.”
“The whole family is grieving! Everyone is going to call me selfish!”
“I have to make sure the house is clean before I do any of that.”
You name it, I’ve heard it. Let me make one thing clear: you are not a victim of your time. People seem to have this backwards, thinking that their time dictates their priorities. This is simply a misunderstanding - time works for you, and your priorities are what dictate how much of your time goes where. The bottom line is, if you consider yourself to be a priority, you will make time for yourself, and you will navigate the obstacles accordingly. Every other story that you conjure up is an excuse, and if you don’t believe me, refer to the portion of this where I explain why your energy stores seem limitless when you practice self care. MYTH. BUSTED. Despite being counterintuitive, giving to yourself makes you better for everyone around you. Giving to yourself means you can give more to others (isn't that what you're trying to do?)
It’s worth mentioning that your self esteem may not go up over night, and honestly, it will probably be uncomfortable - similar to setting boundaries and telling people “no” in the beginning. Giving energy back to yourself instead of someone else can feel wrong, despite being one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Once you get over the hump of “I shouldn’t give back to myself,” your self esteem will skyrocket. Moving beyond the mentality that “this is wrong,” “self care is selfish,” and whatever story you have around treating yourself with love and kindness, will put you in a position to raise your own sense of worth.
I challenge you to really look at your surroundings, do the people around you honor and value you? Do they treat you with the respect that you deserve? Do you wish that people spoke to you differently? You will realize that a large part of this has to do with the way you treat yourself. Are you respecting yourself, saying kind words to yourself, and prioritizing yourself? If you’re not doing it, other people probably won’t either.
These patterns run deep, and are often painful to work through. Self care isn’t a hokey practice that only wealthy white women engage in. Self care is about principle, and it is about claiming respect for yourself. I know what it’s like to be completely devalued, disrespected, and put at the bottom of other people’s priority lists; and I promise that whatever growth you have to do to get out of that rut is worth it. Scrap, fight, and claw your way out of that old story, because once you do, your world will shift.
So much gratitude,
Rev. Sydney Finn
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