One of the most common issues my female clients face is guilt about taking care of themselves. When I see she has this tendency and I start to challenge her about self care, phrases such as, "I feel so selfish," "I can't because I feel guilty" start to surface. Women often feel terrible about themselves just considering self-care. My challenge is to change that perception and help her to gain an awareness that she is worth taking good care of.
When I hear the phrase, "She let herself go," I know that is most likely not the case. Often, the real issue is that she is putting you first and her family first, her house first, her friends first, meals first, laundry first, groceries first, the kids homework first. Anyone who asks for help comes first and she comes last (of course this is all done with a smile on her face). She cares so much about others that she cannot seem to get around to taking care of herself. She's last on the list and there are only so many hours in the day.
Women in my office are burned out, exhausted, suffering health problems, sleep problems, anxiety problems. It's not because they are sitting around eating bon bon's with their feet up. Often it's because they care too much about everyone and everything but themselves. I try to emphasize that if they don't take care of themselves their health is going to suffer immensely (certainly I am also guilty of this).
Every time I start to push against that belief that self care isn't selfish I get a befuddled look. Women look at me like I am from outer space and quickly protest my pleas that she learn to prioritize her own needs. She often cannot see the correlation between her suffering and her self neglect. The idea that she will get to herself eventually never happens because more things slide in on the top of the To Do List before she can get around to herself.
I have to admit, I have a hard time with this too. As much as I preach it, I often have to remember to listen to my own advice. Here's the thing; give up on your perfectionism (or you will die from exhaustion)! If you take care of yourself you will have to let something else go. Leave the kitchen a mess and go for a walk. Get behind on laundry and read your favorite book. Order pizza and use paper plates while you choose to take a bath. Let your kid hand in half of their homework so you can write in your journal or call a friend. Leave the goopy toothpaste on the kids bathroom countertop so you can do something fun instead.
Yes, I said it! Let your house go instead of yourself. So frickin' what - your house is a mess! That means people live there and have a life to live. Better Homes and Garden's is NOT going to show up to do a photo shoot on your house (thank God)! If your friends or family judge you for not keeping your house perfectly, show them where the broom is and ask them for help. You are too busy AND you are too important to do it all perfectly.
Sit down and make a list of 20 self care things you can fit into your life right now. Start doing them. You are important and you are worth it. If you don't take care of yourself you will not be around to take care of everyone else because you will suffer health problems that will slow you down or take you out (did you know women die from heart attacks than from other diseases?). This is a mandate. Put yourself at the top of the list. NOW!
Love and hugs-Gretchen