Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one. – Eleanor Roosevelt
I remember when the doctor confirmed an initial diagnosis that I have an autoimmune disease. She told me there was no cure, no treatment other than something experimental that they were trying for another disease, and even that had no certainty of success. Nothing. And that whenever I have a flare of my disease, the best and only real thing I could do was to rest.
Funny how being diagnosed with a health issue suddenly puts taking care of yourself into perspective. Yet, it shouldn’t be that way, right? We really should be doing that all along, taking care of ourselves. So why don’t we?
Well the short answer is, we’ve been programmed that way. No, it’s not genetics or some predisposition. It’s just one of those unspoken, cultural rules that says we’re not allowed to take care of ourselves, or take time for ourselves because that would be selfish and everyone elses’ needs, wants, and whims are far more important than us. Never mind we live in a time when going to the gym, wearing yoga pants and eating yogurt for breakfast, lunch and dinner is a thing nowadays, trendy even, but we don’t truly take care or take time for ourselves. Instead, we adopt an “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” mantra and then charge off into the fray because we have a 10-million-things-to-get-done-to-do list to accomplish by the end of the day.
Whoa, I’m just tired thinking about that. What the heck? Who said that was a thing? I don’t recall signing up for that. Nope, I’m pretty sure I didn’t agree to anything like that when I started adulting, and neither did you. But here we are living the life. No we’re not. We’re working the life. We’re knocking ourselves out day after day, making everyone else’s needs, wants and whims a priority and neglecting sometimes the most basic things we desperately need. I call this the Cinderella effect, except that we’re both Cinderella and Evil Stepmother all in one.
We’re Evil Stepmother to ourselves by telling ourselves we have to get our 10-million-item-to-do list done before we can go to the ball (wait, what? There’s a ball?) and then we dutifully act like Cinderella and start checking off one item after another, working ourselves to exhaustion, making sure the needs, wants and whims of everyone else are met, exceeded or preempted. But hey, kudos to us for doing that because really that’s what a good wife, mother, friend, employee, or ________________________, does, right?! Raspberries! (No, really, insert a raspberry noise right here).
What rubbish! What absolutely, nonsensical rubbish! Now, don’t mistake my meaning. I’m not saying we go on strike, start burning bras or yell out the window “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Nor am I saying that taking care of those we love, and our responsibilities isn’t important, and that we shouldn’t take care of them. They are, and we should. I’m just saying we gotta take a selfie.
No! Do not whip out your phone and start clicking away! I said selfie not selfie! Take some time for yourself….you know, a selfie. Gasp! No, are you crazy? If I do that I won’t win Person Extraordinaire of the Year Award. Oh for Heaven’s sake.
Is that what we should be living for, Person Extraordinaire? Is that the point of our existence? To run ourselves into the ground just so others will think better of us or so we’ll think better of ourselves? Really? Or are we afraid that if we take time for ourselves, then all hell will break loose? That the stack of dishes in the sink will suddenly evolve into a new alien life form? That the pile of laundry will begin to rival the heights of Mt. Everest? That cats and dogs will start living together? What? Seriously. C’mon, we deserve a selfie. And here’s why…we’re no good to anyone if we’re completely tapped out.
What will it hurt to take some time just for ourselves? The better question is, what will it hurt if we don’t ? The answer? A lot.
When we put ourselves last on our list of priorities, when we neglect ourselves, what we’re really saying is we’re not important. We’re saying that our health and well-being are of no consequence and that it’s okay to be unkind to ourselves. When our mindset is, if we don’t do for everyone else then things won’t get done; that someone or something will be neglected, or somehow we just won’t measure up to the Jones’s, we not only put ourselves at risk, we put everyone else at risk, too.
See, the way in which we treat ourselves sets the tone or standard for every other relationship in our lives. If we exhaust ourselves, if we squeeze every ounce of energy out of ourselves and put nothing back then we really do end up neglecting others in our life.
When we’re exhausted, when we’re spent, then bitterness and resentment have a chance to set in. We may begin to feel unappreciated, harboring animosity and indignation towards the ones we care about. We become snappish or snarky. We lash out in unreasonable ways because no one realizes that we’ve been neglecting ourselves. The people in our lives start to wonder what they did wrong. They may even avoid being around us. Even worse, we convey to those nearest and dearest to us that this kind of behavior and neglect is acceptable; that this is what life and relationships are about. Is that what we really want?
What’s more, our health – mind, body and spirit – is adversely affected by our self neglect. We don’t eat right; we don’t get enough sleep; we don’t take time for a break. We don’t set goals, act on dreams or have aspirations. We don’t affirm our worth; we don’t develop our personal growth; we don’t renew ourselves; we don’t have joy. When we don’t take a selfie we become a slavey (yes, I made that up). But it’s true!
Yet we still keep on keeping on, thinking we’re doing right by everyone by doing wrong by us. I have one thing to say about that: STOP IT! Stop being a slave to yourself. Stop playing Cinderella and Evil Stepmother. Stop being cruel to yourself! Take a selfie and start being loving to yourself. Because at the end of it all, what will people really remember about you, about what you’ve done? What will all of this self-slavery truly mean?
Stephen Covey, author of the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, suggests an exercise to put things in perspective. The exercise is this: write down what you want people to say about you at your funeral. Okay, granted, it may sound a bit morbid but think about it for a minute. What he’s really asking is what will you be remembered for? Do you want to be remembered for running around like a chicken with its head cut off, taking the kids here, there and everywhere for every extracurricular activity under the sun because that’s what the Jones’s are doing? Or that you were such a cleaning fanatic that every surface in your house was so spotless people could even eat off the floor? Do you want people to say, “She did laundry really well. I mean, there wasn’t stain or dirt spot that she couldn’t overcome.” Yeah, no – me neither. What we really want is to be remembered as loving, kind, and fun to be around, yes? Me too.
Guess what? There’s still hope for us! Yay! We start by taking a selfie. I know the idea may seem foreign, even wrong but it’s not. It’s healthy. It’s necessary. It’s sanity. Start small. Take 15 or 30 minutes out of your day just for you. Take a nap, read a book, exercise, sit outside, take a walk, eat chocolate (okay, maybe you shouldn’t eat chocolate for the full 15 or 30 minutes, but do eat some!), garden, play with the dog, play with the kids, pray. See? All kinds of things you can do for yourself in a short amount of time. And then work up to more. Do something creative. Paint, draw, write, sew, or build something. Go have lunch with friends.
My friends and I do that every month. We get together on a Saturday and have lunch. Not a half-hour quick lunch. No, we spend the entire afternoon at lunch. Why? Because we’re catching up with each other but we’re also taking a selfie. We’re laughing and talking about life stuff. We help recharge each other’s batteries; we’re affirming and empowering each other; we’re being supportive and encouraging to each other. We’re taking time to be better about ourselves. (Speaking of which, yo! DB, CL, and LG, we need to schedule a lunch date soon!)
Final thoughts. When we take a selfie, then everyone wins. (I’m talking to myself, here, too). Everyone gets the best version of us. We’re happy, focused, energized, encouraging, active, fun, ___________________ (you fill the blank). Because those are the things we really want to be known for and we shouldn’t have to wait until our funeral for that. A life well-loved, is a life well lived. Love yourself…take a selfie!
For what does a man get in all his labor and in his striving with which he labors under the sun? Because all his days his task is painful and grievous; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is vanity. – Ecclesiastes 2:22-23
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. – Proverbs 14:30
A gentle response deflects fury, but a harsh word makes tempers rise. – Proverbs 15:1
A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but when it twists things, it breaks the spirit. – Proverbs 15:4
A glad heart makes a face happy… – Proverbs 15:13
Every wise woman builds up her home, but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands. – Proverbs 14:1
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. – Isaiah 26:3
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28