“Secret of Adulthood: If I want to ask a lot of myself, I need to give a lot to myself.” ~Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project frequently shares her Secrets of Adulthood on her blog and on Twitter. These are things she’s learned over the years about how life works. The one posted above is one I encountered today on her Twitter feed.
Like many of her Secrets of Adulthood, it sounds rather obvious, but it’s something that I don’t do very well at living into. I tend to expect a lot of myself but think that it’s selfish to give anything to myself. The problem is that when I don’t fill my own tank, I have nothing to give to others. Therefore, I continually disappoint others and myself with my inability to do what is expected of me.
The ironic thing is that I (and many I know) accuse me of being selfish any time I do take time out to take care of myself—to give to myself in whatever way is needed. Because this way of thinking is also how I was raised, I find myself experiencing deep shame any time I do have the audacity to practice self-care instead of meeting someone else’s need or expectation.
Of course, this just keeps the whole cycle going.
I’m really not sure where the answer is. Self-care is vital for any of us to be the people we want and need to be. But how does one balance that with the importance of giving to others?
I’ve found myself thinking a good deal about this question the last few days. The only time I practice effective self-care of any kind is when I am sick. That gives me the “excuse” I need to make choices that are kind to me without experiencing crippling guilt. (I still feel guilty, but I can at least rationalize it enough to make it tolerable.)
I’m noticing a similar phenomenon this time with my admission that I have sunk back into depression. I am finding myself more willing to say “no,” to draw boundaries, and to honor my body’s needs (like getting enough sleep) right now because I know that I need these things in order to get better. But what a relief it is to be able to give to myself and feel like it is ok!
Noticing that has made me aware that something is seriously out-of-kilter with the way I am dealing with self-care at other times. I don’t know yet how to change this or exactly what change looks like. (Even contemplating dealing with this has all the old tapes screaming in my head accusing me of being a self-centered loser!) But clearly something needs to change when the ability to give myself permission to practice effective self-care becomes an upside to depression!
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