Why Isn't Self-Care Working for Me?
You indulge routinely on Netflix binges and you balance out your Month of Girl Scout Cookies with a Whole 30 (ish), but you still feel--uncared for. Maybe you need more than a morning at Target? Maybe you need a weekend off? A week? A year?
Here's another idea: maybe self-care isn't working for you because you see it as indulgence, rather than rightfully deserved.
Self-care, for legions of women, is an exploration of value: do women have inherent value, outside of the explicit value they provide to family, society, and so forth? Things that are valuable should be taken care of. Things that do not have value should not be taken care of.
Underneath Treat yo Self
Self-care is repugnant to many because it forces us to face the fact that we have worth simply because we're human, and that as humans of worth, we are as deserving of tender, kind, gentle love as the children we care for.
Let me kind of flesh out how it works in my own life: I used to see my stretched-out, stretch-mark riddled belly in the bathroom mirror and say, "gross, Sarah." I wouldn't actually say the words, but I would feel the words.
When my daughter turned three, she started watching me intently whenever I was doing bathroom things--washing my face, showering, putting on makeup. She would pat my tummy with her little hands and say things like "your tummy is soft, mommy!"
Her small action made me pay attention to my mental script, and I could not let her hear my inner disgust for fear she'd feel the same disgust for her own body. I started making myself say "thank you God for this beautiful, strong belly" every time I saw it in the mirror.
At first, the words were repulsive. They still are, sometimes, but I've found that now when my daughter says, "I love your tummy, mom," and pats it with her little hands, I can say, "me too."
Maybe you have different mental scripts that argue your worth. Maybe they sound like these:
- good moms don't need self-care (self-care is so indulgent)
- you feel ashamed of caring for yourself (I don't deserve self-care)
- you don't like yourself (so why would you take care of yourself?)
- you don't want to "put out" other people (I don't want them to be inconvenienced for my sake)
Swapping Mental Scripts
Let's name where those scripts come from, shall we? Hell. It's hell. Those scripts come from hell.
Here are some new, better mental scripts:
- I am worthy of taking up space and being here.
- I matter.
- I am known, counted, and sung over.
- I am beautiful.
- I am loved.
- I am worth being taken care of.
- I have a purpose and a destiny.
I find that mental scripts are helpful, but what's more powerful (miraculously so) is finding God's words to use as a mental script. All of the above scripts can be found in these verses:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love.
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.
When I became pregnant with my daughter I memorized the Psalm 139 passage from above. I say it to her at bedtime; it's "her" verse. She knows it by heart now, too.
If my daughter's generation is going to know their worth as women--as humans--it starts in my generation. On my watch. With me.
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