Your Path to Clarity Begins With Self-CareNov 05, 2022
If indecision around parenthood has been weighing heavily on your heart and mind, there’s a missing piece that can help you create the space for clarity — and it might surprise you…
We hear this term a lot, yet our culture generally doesn’t support authentic self-care, self-love, or self-compassion. In fact, these qualities are often seen as negative — selfish and self-centered.
These projections can keep you from what you most need most right now — time, space, and room to explore your thoughts and feelings.
If you struggle with self-care, you’re not alone. Maintaining your health and well-being requires deliberate action.
If you’re judging yourself because you can’t decide if parenthood is for you, for sure you are going to need some guidance on how to prioritize self-care.
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…
(as I hear Julie Andrews sing Do Re Mi in the Sound of Music).
If you were well cared for when you were young — meaning your emotional, psychological, and physical needs were met — and you witnessed adults around you who took good care of themselves, your ability as an adult to maintain and preserve your well-being would be fairly easy to do. But if that wasn’t the case in your early years you might struggle with it as an adult.
As an adult, it is up to you and no one else to take good care of yourself. No one other than you is responsible for your well-being. Unlike when you were a child; it was your parent(s) and possibly other adults who were responsible for your well-being. Please know that there is a good reason why self-care might not come easy to you. So, no more thinking that something is wrong with you, or that you are less than others somehow. It’s never too late to learn and implement it.
Do you have a self-care routine? Pause right now and think of the last three deliberate action steps you did for yourself that resulted in you feeling good emotionally and/or physically. A self-care routine can be spending three minutes a day (Literally! Set a timer) remembering what you did yesterday on behalf of yourself. Or taking in how someone else thought well about you.
When you mess up or make a mistake is your default reaction, compassion, or beating yourself up? If compassion is your go-to, then great. If it’s not and you end up being harsh with yourself, try practicing saying the following to yourself, “How sad that I would ever be harsh with myself.”
Self-care is not all or nothing. Three to five minutes can go a long way. Try not to fall into the trap of thinking you must go to yoga 3/times a week or to the gym 3/times a week or go swimming every other day or meditate daily for 30 minutes and anything less than that means you’re not prioritizing yourself and therefore you are less than others or that you’ll never be good at taking care of yourself so how can you take care of a child, etc. and on it goes. It doesn’t work that way.
Self-care begins in your mind by choosing to adopt a thought pattern that has movement. Judgmental thoughts have no movement. They end with the judgment and then replay.
So, if you’re feeling jealous or wishing you had something that you don’t have or you feel left out, or you feel triggered by being single when you want to be partnered or by being partnered with the wrong person, or if you live in fear of missing out (FOMO) or you are suffering in any way or if you believe that if you lost 15 pounds everything would be better, etc. the first step isn’t trying to strategize the problem away.
The first step is to administer self-compassion. This is what self-compassion sounds like. Take a breath and say out loud any version of the following, “If feel _________________ [fill in the blank] sad/upset/angry/distraught/annoyed/disappointed that I would ever feel this way.” “Ouch.”
Then pause. Truly take in the words and hear them and feel them. Give yourself a moment to notice that you are hurting. Then breathe again. You will be surprised at how much this moment in time can yield. A potential tear might surface. You might touch on some unresolved grief that needs your attention. That is what I call movement. If when you were very young you did not feel seen and wished that someone would have noticed that you were hurting, then this might not come so easily. But that doesn't mean it won’t come with practice. This is a muscle to exercise. This is something to practice many times a day because I have no doubt that you have judgmental thoughts more than once a day.
Over time you will come up with your own statements of compassion that will be specific to you. Starting with something general is a perfect place to start.
Let’s look at what self-care looks like practically. It starts in your mind with deliberate thoughts. Then it’s about action steps. Then it’s about celebrating yourself in all the ways you can imagine.
For some people organizing one drawer in their kitchen will yield calming energy and inner pride. And for others, it will be something else. For example:
- Take a bubble bath.
- Write down five things in which you can feel inner pride.
- Close your eyes and for five minutes go on vacation with your mind. Take yourself to your favorite location and picture yourself there.
- Sit and close your eyes for three to five minutes and breathe in and out with deliberate thoughts. For example, breathing in the thought, “I am good.” Then breathing out, “I am good.”
- Look over the last year and notice three things that you’re pleased about.
You might do some yoga or stretching or meditating, but the point is that self-care comes in little bits and pieces. It grows from there. You’ll discover what’s right for you.
I wish you peace, well-being, and liberation from all that feels oppressive to you.
PS: At the end of each chapter of our book Motherhood-Is It For Me? Your Step-by-Step Guide to Clarity by Denise L. Carlini & Ann Davidman, we have a self-care section where we make at least two suggestions of self-care.