Self-Care Does Not Equal Selfish
Jodie Niles, Life Coach
Do you feel like it’s too exhausting to keep everyone around you happy? Feel like there isn’t enough time in a day as it is, and then experience guilt instead of joy when you opt out of other commitments to do something for yourself instead? Does worrying about letting others down end up bogging YOU down?
It’s alarming how we often worry so much about making choices in relation to the way it will affect others. Isn’t it really ourselves that we should mostly be concerned about? Yet we waste so much precious time and energy dwelling on one instance or one person that didn’t pan out as we’d wanted or planned. Meanwhile, we miss out on doing something else in that moment which could be much more appropriate. Instead, we lament and complain and question and dissect and analyze. I’ve noticed that there are some people out there who really function best when they have everything planned, and then there are others who never commit, and prefer to go with the flow, thus alleviating unwanted stress or added pressure. I fall somewhere in between.
I used to be the type of person who made a commitment and that was that. No questions about it. I was taught that commitment means reliability, punctuality and responsibility, not to mention good manners. And I used to feel good about myself for staying loyal to my every word. But the older I’ve gotten and the more I’ve been up and down in the flow of life, the more I’ve learned that what may seem like a great idea one day, isn’t a fit at a later date in time. My energy changes every second, so I really have no idea what to expect on any given day or in any given situation. This is something that cannot be predicted or planned, no matter how good our intentions are. And life is too short for me to waste time doing something that’s not feeling desirable at the moment.
In recent years, I’ve begun respecting my energy more by honoring what my body/mind/soul needs IN THE MOMENT. If I make plans with friends a few weeks in advance, which is often the case, and that day rolls around and I am NOT “feelin’ it,” then I bow out. Some friends seem to respond negatively to this, letting it mess up their entire day and looking for someone, or something to blame for the chaos. Others are like, “oh, that’s cool. I’m not feelin’ it today, either.” Or “hey, no worries. We can catch a movie and dinner any time,” and there are absolutely no hard feelings. My friend Jen and I went to dinner last night to catch up. Our “plan” is to get together once a month and we last met in February. When March rolled around, we set a date. On that day, one of us texted the other and asked if we could postpone. No worries. Then April came, and we did that again. Finally, on May 4th, we met, and we had a GREAT time connecting. And we both arrived late, to boot!
Life is too short to worry about trivial things. If plans get changed, then we must adapt. There is no sense is crying over spilled milk. I’ve noticed how many people take things personally when someone cancels, or doesn’t show up to an event or gathering at the last minute. It continues to amaze me. Sure, I am an avid social organizer myself, and I am, of course, disappointed when someone ends up not making it, because I love everyone that I’ve invited and I want to spend the time with them on that particular occasion, in the spirit of merriment. Yet, after I’ve allowed myself to feel briefly sad or disappointed, I move on. I understand that someone may have caught a sore throat or a cold, or suddenly have friends in from out of town, or a babysitter cancel, or their child is sick or the weather is bad or they have to work or they Just.Don’t.Feel.Like.Going.Out.. I acknowledge this, and then I move forward, enjoying the guests who ARE present. And sometimes, I even cancel my own events! If I am not in a good energetic place, it is for the good of the all and in the best interest to those that I care about, to lay low during that time. In my experience, forcing yourself to “keep your word” and “show up” often results in a less pleasurable experience than if one does not attend at all. The energy that you bring to the table, if you really don’t want to be there, is not transparent, and others are affected by it. So, would you rather be in an awkward situation, just so everyone can be checked off the roll call list, or would you rather honor what you/your body need, and reconnect with those people/friends at another time when the energy is right, and you can both enjoy it?
The funny part is, many of us spend so much time getting bent out of shape over who does or doesn’t keep their word that we lose the focus entirely, and we begin to take it personally. This is a slippery slope and can lead to many misunderstandings and unclear expectations. Keep your communication lines open and clear. Chances are it has nothing to do with you. And you need to respect where that person is at in the moment, and be at peace with where you are. The two energies need not collide. Move onto something else! You will probably find that you will be better suited for another activity anyway, since your energy has already changed.
What really concerns me is that we have been so conditioned to believe that it’s more important to let ourselves down than to let others down. And I am here to tell you, LOUD & CLEAR…that SELF-CARE DOES NOT EQUAL SELFISH! Get that out of your head right now and you will feel like a weight has been lifted. Listening to what we need in any given moment is our responsibility to ourselves, and we should feel no shame in this. If you said yes to a social networking event that sounded like a great idea three weeks ago, but are feeling edgy and drained throughout that day, chances are, you are probably trying to talk yourself into going, for any number of reasons. “Well I RSVP’d, so I have to go,” or “Well, so and so will probably be there, and I know I should swap business cards with them,” or “I’ll feel fine once I’m there. I’m just being lazy. I better force myself to go,” and then we put on our happy face and try to appear as though we are on the top of our game, when really, we’d rather be at home watching NCIS reruns on the couch, or spending quality time with our pet or spouse, or simply going home to a quiet, empty, crowd-free environment after a long, stressful day. Maybe you have a headache. Maybe you’re tired. Maybe you aren’t in the mood to “dress up for the occasion.” Perhaps you had an experience that day that was unexpected, and that left you in a very calm, peaceful, meditative mood and you feel more inclined to go home and paint or write or sing or read. Perhaps it’s a rainy day and you’d rather sip coffee in front of the fire with your lover. Whatever the case, you don’t owe anyone an explanation! You just owe it to yourself to be honest in your choice, and to gently communicate that choice to those whom it concerns.
Self-care is something that takes work and practice. And as we learn, we probably will encounter some awkward situations. They are growing pains, for all of us. But don’t’ let that discourage you. It gets to be an exhausting “J.O.B.” when we can’t let just to go to our happy place as often as we’d like, because we feel that other obligations take precedence. Do what feels right to you. Redefine your boundaries. Do whatever it takes to stand squarely in your power. If YOU are not happy, not enjoying it, or not “feeling” it, then there’s not necessarily always a good reason you have to do it. Simple as that. Stop feeling guilty, second guessing or trying too hard. It either feels right or it doesn’t. It’s Intuitive and honest. And we can’t expect, nor do we need everyone around us to understand. We are all on our own journeys, and we need to respect that in ourselves, so that we can respect that in others. In time, everything works out. That is the beauty of energy. It always keeps moving and it is resilient.
It feels so much better when you can acknowledge disappointment, but then let it go and look at the next best option, because there always is one, and it almost always works out for the best in the long run. The more we try to control things, the less we can see. The more we let things go, the more open we become. We are humans. We were born to adapt. This isn’t to say that we aren’t allowed, or justified in feeling hurt or let down or disappointed; however, it’s up to US how much we choose to let that keep our own energy level down. After all, we are giving our power away to another if we are allowing them to affect our energy levels in detrimental ways. They are renting space for free in our heads! We are the landlords; we choose who and what we allow in, and when!
So, as we head into summer, a busy time, full of vibrancy and endless options, I encourage you to choose wisely, from moment to moment. Take stock in where you are, what you need, what you want and who/what will best support you in that at this moment. Let yourself have the freedom to be flexible, to honor your needs, and partake accordingly. Let other people deal with their own stuff. If you honor yourself, you will be honoring others as well, and you will also be setting a fine example of self-care. Don’t confuse this with expectation, obligation, commitment or guilt. Just know that you are allowed…scratch that, you were BORN to enjoy life, and you can’t plan joy. So, let it find you, and go with it wherever it takes you, and let others do the same. When your paths are meant to cross, you can share joy together in those moments. If not, then trust that there is definitely another purpose intended for you at that moment, so embrace it and see where it takes you!