Today, I want to talk about guilt. Not a guilt-trip or a verdict in a courtroom, oh no. I’m talking about the guilt we heap upon our very own selves. That special kind of self-loathing reserved for when we do or feel compelled to do something we shouldn’t. Eating the extra helping of dessert, taking a chill day when our to-do list is miles long, or just generally living with a case of the fuckits… We are adults (mostly) in command of our own lives, yet when we decide to do something for ourselves, we feel terrible about it! Not only that, but the guilt hangs around haunting us. My question is why? Self-care is not selfish.
Humans are hardwired to focus on deficiencies.
We are analytical, detail-oriented beings who are very good at noticing when things don’t add up. As a species, this has served as well and made us very good at keeping ourselves alive (in a primitive sense) and seeking out and exploiting opportunities. Along the way, we’ve developed a practice of shortcutting by way of binary thinking. In trying to make decisions quickly and efficiently, we label things as good or bad, wrong or right, love or hate. We want more good and less bad, we want to be right and we don’t want any negativity. I mean positive vibes only, yah? It all seems very simple, maybe too simple.
For a great many of us, this mindset shapes our view of self-care.
More good stuff, less bad stuff. Spend more time doing more things, not just things —productive and important things. As if taking care of ourselves is some irresponsible act, we view time spent on ourselves as something that could/should have been spent doing something more valuable. Like taking care of ourselves is at the direct expense of the rest of the world. No wonder it makes us feel shitty.
If we ask ourselves whose responsibility it is to take care of us, to ensure our happiness and safety, we know the answer. Yet, we trivialize any effort undertaken to deepen our relationship with ourselves. This simply makes no sense. Self-care is NOT selfish. If we are aware of the important role wellness plays in our day-to-day lives, we should feel empowered to seek self-care and wellness. We should not feel bad or guilty when we practice self-care.
By gosh we should feel PROUD of ourselves!
The last time you woke up and didn’t feel good, you probably went to work anyway. Maybe you just had a tough day, but maybe you found yourself feeling worse and eventually at the doctor sometime later. By that point, you earned a note from a physician that says you’re officially sick and authorized to begin caring for yourself…now, armed with prescriptions and a guilt-free pass, it is now time to focus on your recovery and nothing else. Just a quick show of hands, who has ever received an accolade or financial incentive for coming into work sick or not using all of their sick days? Even if you did, you would still be sick!
I bring this up because I have noticed that in many ways we all seek approval and validation to engage in caring ourselves. We’re looking for that guilt-free pass so we can focus on us without that swirling icky feeling. When we are children, validation comes from a parent or loved one that advises we are too sick for school/activities today. Later on, it’s a medical professional’s diagnosis or expert recommendations that get us off the hook. Sometimes medical help is vital, but it shouldn’t be the sole factor in determining whether or not we need a little self-guided TLC.
It’s easy to see how we are conditioned to look to others to validate our feelings and action plan for handling them, but we don’t have to stay in this place forever.
I’m here to tell you that we do not actually need ANYONE ELSE to authorize our self-care.
We are smart and we are capable of appraising and executing our own self-care rituals. Whether they involve skipping a workout, taking a day off, or spending a little extra on the nice shampoo. We get to call our own shots! Outsourcing self-care is silly. When you’re hungry, do you make an appointment with someone to decide what you should eat? No! You just eat! When you’re low on gas do you stop driving your car and just take an Uber? No! You go get gas. We are empowered independent amazing humans. When you need a minute, honey, TAKE A MINUTE! It’s just a minute after all.
In love and light,