Making self-care about “her”

As I anxiously watch the election results roll in tonight while trying (not very successfully) to study for an exam later this week after having gotten up even earlier than usual this morning to vote, I’m very aware of that some heavy-duty self-care is in order right about now. As I try to sort through all of the things that are on my to-do list to figure out what I owe to whom right now, it’s hard to make letting it all go to do something for myself to care for myself a priority.

I really struggle with doing things for myself. I tend to put a lot of energy into first making sure that everyone else’s needs and wants are met first and that my plan to do something for myself isn’t going to inconvenience or bother anyone else.

This is true whether I’m thinking about setting appropriate boundaries, doing something I want to do, or even basic necessary self-care. I usually wait until a complete crash is imminent before I do what I need to do to take care of myself. (And even then, I feel horribly guilty about it—especially when other people complain or disapprove.)

Therefore, I was intrigued to come across an old article by Gretchen Rubin (of The Happiness Project) on Psychology Today’s website called Think of Yourself in the Third Person. In the article, Rubin advocates for the idea of approaching self-care by thinking of yourself in the third person (an idea that writer Annie Lamott also find useful). Rubin claims that thinking about what she needs from the outside helps her to be more realistic about her needs, set clearer boundaries, and better understand how to meet her needs.

I can definitely see the merit in this. If it’s easier for me to look out for other people than to look out for myself, then it makes sense to make myself one of those other people. It removes all the guilt about being selfish because I’m just looking out for the person called “KJ” rather than just “little old me.” When KJ’s needs conflict with something that someone else wants, then I can consider the two people’s needs on a more even basis rather than automatically discounting my own needs until it becomes an emergency.

In fact, I’m already starting to think of ways to meet KJ’s self-care needs in ways I’ve never considered just by making “her” needs outside of myself. As I learn to work this long dormant muscle of self-care, I think that starting with making my self-care about “KJ” instead of about “me” just may be the training wheels I needed to get me moving in the right direction.

As for KJ, I think she needs an early bedtime tonight. The election results will be there in the morning. I can study more effectively when I am less tired, and I’ll be better able to focus on the rest of my to-do list after some sleep.

How about you? Have you ever tried this approach to self-care?

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2 thoughts on “Making self-care about “her”

  1. I haven’t thought of it that way, but it is certainly something worth considering. I too am finding myself riddled with so many items on my to-do list that I am frequently overwhelmed and not caring for myself in ways that I really need to. This gives a new approach to self-care that is worth trying. Thanks for the suggestion KJ!

    • Good luck! I hope this approach is helpful to you, too. Finding the balance between self-care and commitments to others is a perennial challenge, I think.

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