For a long time, self-care felt, to me, like a stupid lie.
Like, I would go do the self-care-y things but I’d return back to my everyday life somehow feeling worse? It took me a good number of years to see why.
Here’s the truth: I was deeply protective of my identity as a selfless mum. My ‘hang on at all costs’ approach to this identity had me suffering for years.
A selfless person doesn’t take time away from her family when they might need her.
A selfless person doesn’t prioritise their own joy, pleasure or desire.
A selfless person is best to hide the fact that they have any needs at all.
But hey, this isn’t a story about me. Rather, I share that as a prelude of what’s to come … which is a conversation about the ways societal expectations can build a great big brick wall between you and self-care.
The brick wall is made up of individual bricks that say things like:
She’s so selfish - she’s resting when her kids need her
She’s so up herself - look at how much she loves herself and her appearance
She’s so selfless - praise praise praise to the selfless woman
She puts everyone else above herself - how admirable!
She never stops. I wish I was as productive and motivated as her.
You spent an hour resting? Wow, that’s lazy.
And on and on and on it goes. So many bricks, such a damn thick wall.
Cognitively, I think most of us really get that this old narrative is exactly that - old and outdated. We see through it and we want more for ourselves and our world. The thing is, when we’ve grown up with that messaging infiltrating everything, everywhere, it’s one thing to think it, quite another to convince our body to believe it.
Often, when I work with people around their relationship with themselves, their body and self-care, this comes up. They want a different relationship with themselves and self-care, but they’re convinced they’re just not motivated enough to make it happen.
Many times, though, it’s not a question of motivation, but of not feeling safe - on a deep level - to do things that society, family and friends might view as bad (i.e. selfish).
We want to belong. It’s a basic need to be included in our communities and families. So what a sting it must be to desire things that might lead those people you care about to view your actions in a way that would see you shunned or misunderstood - like selfish, lazy or in love with yourself?
They might not consciously believe in this old, outdated narrative either, by the way! We’re all unraveling it together. But here we are, trying to make progress, while pressing our noses up against this brick wall that we don’t even know is there.
So what’s a person to do?
What’s the solution (or at least a first step) when you know you want a more loving, generous and kind relationship with yourself but now you see the wall you’re up against?
Well, seeing the wall is actually the first step. It might have been fully invisible or only a hazy idea in the past. But once you see it, things change. Acknowledgement is always the first bit of any change, because how do you change without knowing what’s really impacting where you are now?
So see it for what it is - some (very) unhelpful programming from a lifetime of growing up in the world.
And decide what values are really important to your relationship with yourself, your body and self-care. It’s likely NOT the value of upholding the status-quo that selflessness is a virtue.
Want to dive deeper? Here are 2 ways you can do that:
Work with me 1-1 to explore what messaging and beliefs might be getting in the way of your self-kind and loving relationship with yourself and your body. You can learn more here.