3 Steps to Making Your Self-Care A Priority—And Feeling Good About It!
“It’s just so hard to make time for myself. I always end up feeling guilty or ashamed for putting myself before my career, family, and other responsibilities. How can I get over that feeling?”
Can you relate?
In fact, it’s common among intelligent, action-oriented, go-getter women to feel this way. We think we’re supposed to be Superwoman, ignoring signals from our body (i.e. exhaustion, foggy thinking, headaches, weight gain, etc.) in order to take care of everyone else’s needs. Though we know better, we rarely stop long enough to take care of our own.
Yet, the more we ignore those signals, the louder they become, until we reach a breaking point and have to make a choice. We have to slow down or stop in order to tend to our health. None of us really wants to let it get to that.
If you struggle with Superwoman Syndrome, here are three things you can do that will help you start prioritizing your own needs and self-care, even with a packed schedule.
1. Take an honest, objective inventory of your beliefs
Take a few minutes to write down the top five reasons you are unable to pencil in some time for self-care in your schedule. Examine this list carefully.
Does your list look a little (or a lot) like this ?
- I don’t have time to prep healthy food to take with me for lunch.
- My kids have so many activities that it feels like I’m rushing around to be there for them from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep.
- Things are super stressful at work, so I barely have time to pee, let alone fit in a workout during the day.
- My spouse/partner works long hours, so the bulk of the at-home responsibilities (cooking, cleaning, childcare) rests on my shoulders.
- I’m so mentally and physically exhausted that all I want to do at the end of the night is sit down in front of the TV or the computer with my favorite snack and unwind for a few minutes before I have to do it all over again.
Whatever is on your list specifically, and as real and immovable as it may all feel, recognize that they are simply very powerful beliefs that you hold about yourself and your time.
So often we get stuck looking at our responsibilities and commitments and believe that just because this is the way we’ve been living for a long time, it’s the only way it could ever be. Changing things is either not even a consideration, or feels too disruptive to everyone else and you can’t bring yourself to do that. That belief results in frustration, unhappiness and resentment toward the very people we love and care for.
What if you choose to prove these beliefs wrong? If the way your life is currently going doesn’t align with the way you want it to look and feel, you have the powermake different choices.
Sometimes just realizing you have that power is enough to start shifting toward a new perspective. What if you:
- communicate your needs?
- ask for help, or lean a little more on your spouse, family, friends, community?
- delegate or outsource certain tasks at work or at home?
- say “no” to commitments that don’t absolutely light you up?
- invest your time more deliberately (instead of doing things because somebody else expects you to or because you feel that it’s expected of you)?
One of the greatest gifts we could ever give our loved ones is to be a role model for what it looks like to be an empowered human being who creates her life with intention.
Role model what it looks like to take responsibility for your happiness, be independent, resourceful, solution-oriented, and create the life you want.
Sometimes we might find ourselves taking care of our spouse’s needs at the expense of our own, and we begin to feel resentful because we’re not getting the same in return. There’s a big difference between giving unconditionally without attachment or expectation, simply because it feels good, and giving for the sake of validation or reciprocation.
If you’re going to give, give from inspiration and unconditional love rather than from a need to feel needed, or an assumed sense of responsibility where there might not really be a need for it.
2. Take an honest, objective inventory of your priorities
Awareness is a powerful thing. Once you know you’re doing something that doesn’t align with the life you want, you have the power to change it.
When we say we don’t have time for something, this often boils down to priorities, rather than an actual lack of time. We make time for the things on which we place the highest value. How important is a particular “something” to us?
Start a new list. This time, write down your top five priorities in life, the things you value most.
Maybe your list looks something like this:
- My kids/my relationship with my spouse.
- My health.
- My family and friends.
- My career.
With this list in hand, pull up your calendar and evaluate whether or not your schedule and commitments reflect the order of what’s on this list.
In other words, if your top priorities are your kids, and your relationship with your spouse, and your health, does your calendar reflect that, or do you see potential for change in how you spend your time?
It’s easy to put the ball in someone else’s court and blame our work, our boss, our spouse, or somebody else for our time commitments. But the more we do that, the more we are giving own power away.
An unhappy journey does not lead to a happy ending.
Take some time now to evaluate what’s on your schedule. Be honest with yourself about what’s truly necessary, and what can change to make a little space for you on your schedule. Are there commitments on your schedule that you can delegate or decline altogether? Are there days that are usually lighter than others?
Life is about more than working, paying the bills, and checking things off a never-ending to-do list. The more your schedule reflects the things that matter most to you, the more fulfilled you will feel, and the more satisfied you will be with your life. You’ll be surprised at how much this spills over into other areas of your life.
3. Don’t “compare and despair”
Looking around, particularly on social media, it can feel like everyone else is doing so much better than us.
It’s easy to look at others and think, “Boy! So-and-So really has it together!” based solely on what they are putting out for you to see online, or what they share with you in casual conversation. But you never really know what anyone else is going through until you’ve walked in their shoes.
We think that because So-and-So works hard, runs a tight home, and never seems to take time for herself, but looks happy and energized all the time, that we must hold ourselves to this same standard if we want to be successful in our own life.
Do you even really want what So-and-So has? And do you think that what you see is all there is? Most of the time we compare ourselves to people who we may admire from afar, without really seeing the whole picture. Not only is there enough success and happiness for everyone, everyone’s success and happiness looks different.
Give yourself a break and stop comparing yourself to anyone else. Celebrate others’ successes, but honor your life’s priorities. Find a pace that works for you.
Ask yourself, “When will enough be enough? When will I finally allow myself to relax and take care of me?” The most frequent answer I get from most women I work with goes something like this: “I don’t know. I guess I never really plan time for myself because there’s always something else that needs to get done.”
Remember: we make time for those things that matter most. You are a bright, strong, empowered, and caring woman. Make sure you matter to you the way you matter to those you care about most.