Self-care has somehow become a highly divisive and touchy topic for many people. I was sitting in an office when I heard two women who began to argue about this. Being nosy I pretended to continue to read my book while listening to a pro/con debate amongst a topic that I actually discuss with most of my clients. I wanted to hear how both sides viewed this topic, because rarely do I have a female client who is pro self-care. Male clients usually have the interest of learning how to pursue it, or already are; while female clients truly struggle with this concept.
First let me define what the concept of self-care is for those who are new to the topic. Self-care is the act of taking care of yourself; in popular definition it has however become defined more as the act of taking care of yourself before others—and this is the topic I want to discuss.
I’m sure now the light bulbs are going off on why it is harder for females to grasp and accept this belief—it’s the moms. Non-moms and single women do not struggle near as much with this concept as the moms or women who have someone (usually a family member) that they care for. As much as people try to defy any given gender role or belief the stereotypes still exist because they are mostly true. Women are nurturers by nature more often than not. The “motherly instinct” comes out as naturally as breathing. The fun fact here for me is, when a male client struggles with self-care, it has been single fathers. That need to tend to your child overrides all egotistic self-interest. However the irony rest in the fact that if you don’t take care of yourself first—you can’t take care of anyone the way you want or that they deserve.
I like to compare it to the oxygen mask on airplanes. If you have ever taken an airplane ride you will be familiar with the concept, if you have not allow me to explain. Before takeoff the flight attendants give a speech on the safety rules and regulations. One of these rules are should something cause the oxygen mask to drop and you have a child or dependent with you, put your mask on first—if you do not you may not be able to put on theirs effectively killing you both. Now while this example is extreme it paints the shocking picture needed usually to make the client really hear the message.
When you decide to skip your session at the gym, ignore that hour of meditation, for-go the you time bath with a relaxing glass of wine, skip your eye appointment for theirs, or any activity that allows you to relax of take care of your health for the “sake” of your child or dependent you are doing them no favors. If you feel like you are, allow me to inform you that you are lying to yourself. Eventually continually avoiding out on these little here or there moments add up and the bill to pay for it will be large.
This concept is hard for many people to grasp as it is intangible, so allow me to provide you with a more tangible example of how small things add up. You buy a cup of that special mocha whipped coffee every day on the way to work, with tax it’s roughly $5 dollars. This is fine because it is a daily charge and you only do it on the weekdays for the most part. You work hard for your money and should be able to spend it on things like this. Now life hits, you have a HDHP (high deductible health plan) since they don’t take money out of your check and you like seeing more money in that bank account. Plus you can save that $100 dollar a month instead. Now you are in the hospital and owe your $1,500 deductible. Of course something happened each month and you would save that $100 you were supposed to next month. Remember that daily coffee? If you had made your own at home you would have paid for $1,300 dollars of this deductible ($5 dollars x 5 days a week x 52 weeks a year) now you only have to charge or pull from savings $200 which is easier. See how quickly something so little adds up? This exact principle adds to your health. Life inevitably happens. If you take care of yourself all along, you will be well prepared for the major event.
Most likely, you are wondering how this applies to not taking the best care of my kid. Well here is your answer. You decided you didn’t need to go the gym anymore so your kid can do both soccer and swim lessons, and you’re patting yourself on the back for being such a giving and good parent. After all you can do a Beach Body work out at home right? Well each day you are going to do it tomorrow—you’re too tired at first, then dinner needs to get made, then your little Johnny needs help with homework. To top it off you kept eating like you were going to the gym (it is habit by now). Then you get a call from your doctor a week after your yearly physical and find yourself at your doctors discussing the negative results. Your blood came back, your diabetic, have hypertension, and dangerously high cholesterol. The insulin you need isn’t covered by insurance and between that and the pills for cholesterol and hypertension you are looking at a new monthly payment equivalent to a small car. Guess what has to go—little Johnny’s soccer and swim lessons. So now instead of being able to participate and excel in just one activity he gets to participate in neither. Their social and leadership skills developed at such activities are no longer being acquired and worked on. The pride he feels at a win is no longer there; instead there is a resentment at you (as your scoffing go yeah right—keep in mind I am giving you a real life example—yup OH SHIT!)
A harsh lesson we all learn over and over is that life doesn’t pause the hard moments because we need it to. There is a reason we have the saying “when it rains it pours”. When you have a monsoon season, it helps to have stocked up little by little and it is easier to weather. So remember the next time you think you are being a rock star by not being “selfish” re-align your thinking. If you really want to be able to take care of others and provide the best possible, be a little “selfish” and participate in some self-care.
As always feel free to email me any questions or topics you would like to see discussed!