I used to think self-care could solve all of my problems, but the truth is, self-care has failed me on that particular front.
I used to think that if I took better care of myself that I’d be a better mom. I’d stop yelling at my kids because I’d be so much more peaceful.
Nope. I definitely yelled at my kids yesterday.
I used to think that if I took better care of myself that all of my relationships would magically improve. I mean if I treat myself better, I will treat everyone else better, too right?
Nope, I still sometimes fight with my husband and occasionally act like an asshole towards the people I love.
I used to think that if I did a ton of self-care that naturally my business would be more successful. People would see how well I was taking care of myself and they’d start throwing money at me.
Nope. I’m barely getting by and consider throwing in the towel almost every single day.
I used to think that doing lots of self-care would make me less inclined towards anger and judginess (yes…I’m going to say that’s a word).
Nope. Anger is still my middle name. I wish it wasn’t. But it is. Self-care can’t make me something I’m not.
I used to think that if I did more self-care I’d be happy all of the time, like self-care is prozac without the side effects.
Nope. I still have days when I feel really down, really angry, really sensitive, really lost, really jealous, and really lonely. Sometimes I have all of those feelings all in one day. And sometimes it happens on a day when I’m doing all kinds of self-care.
Self-care isn’t a magic happy pill.
Self-care isn’t a big cosmic bandaid that will cover up all of your wounds, giving them time to heal.
Self-care is not the single prescription for living the perfect life.
When I first started taking better care of myself, I bought into all of those ideas about what I’d been told self-care was. I believed it all. I needed to. I was going through a really unpleasant, tough, painful time.
I needed to believe that self-care would make my life 100% better than it was.
And in that way, self-care failed me.
Here’s what self-care has offered me, instead.
Practicing self-care has taught me about the power of self-love. When I choose to take good care of myself, I am telling myself that I matter. My needs matter. This, by the way, is something that most moms in particular forget because we’re trained to believe the opposite.
Practicing self-care has taught me that there is a difference between doing something that recharges me (feeds my soul) and doing something that brings more balance to my life (realigns me). There is a huge difference between the two and it’s something I explore thoroughly in my Summer of Self-Care Club (which starts July 8th and is open for registration and you should join in if you want to learn more about this distinction for your own needs, too!)
Practicing self-care has taught me about the value of consistency. The more I do something that makes me feel good, the more I want it. If I can be consistent with myself, I can be consistent with other things that matter.
Practicing self-care has taught me that size doesn’t matter. Small “boring” acts of self-care are just as significant as big “fancy” acts of self-care. What matters more is whether what you do is what you really need.
Which brings me to the next thing that doing more self-care has given me, which is greater consciousness of my own needs. Not all self-care supports every person. Every individual person determines what “self-care” is for them.
Practicing self-care has also given me the gift of understanding and compassion. I am more aware of the needs of others (self-care needs as well as personal needs) and that they might be very different from my own. This has helped me in my relationship with my husband and my 5 year old, who both have very different needs than my own.
Practicing self-care has taught me the necessity of forgiveness, which is something that doesn’t come as naturally to me. I have a long memory, I take things way too personally, and I’m inclined to hold grudges. Practicing self-care is slowly teaching me that one of the best ways to heal my relationship with myself is through forgiveness. And in learning how to forgive myself, I am becoming less self-critical, softer, and kinder. It’s not perfect. I still feel guilt when I screw up, as well as shame and frustration. Feelings of not being good enough. Or undeserving. It’s a process. But what’s most important is that I am in the process instead of outside of it.
Practicing self-care is also teaching me some big lessons about guilt. Big ones I am still working through. Guilt for telling my daughter I have to work instead of play with her. Guilt for doing a longer yoga practice instead of cleaning the house. Guilt for carving out time for me while my kids watch tv. Guilt for spending time with my family when I have work I need to do on my website. So much guilt. Practicing self-care reminds me that guilt is form of emotional torture. If I want to feel healthier and stronger, taking care of myself is a priority, not a problem.
Practicing self-care has taught me that perfection is overrated. I mean, this is a lesson I’ve been learning since college, but the deeper I go into parenthood, the less interested I am in being perfect and the more interested I am in being healthy. And passing on that same idea to my kids.
So maybe my initial idea of self-care has failed me, but in reality, self-care has given me so much more than I ever could have imagined when I first set out to take better care of myself. And for that immense failure, I am grateful.