The self care spectrum and why you need to be a little “selfish” sometimes

The whole point of self care is that it’s about YOU. No one else. If you’re still putting other people’s needs above your own you’re probably doing it wrong.

For some of us the tendency to prioritize others comes from different places. Maybe it’s the need to experience validation and to feel like your existence is valuable. Maybe you want to help people to make up for feelings of guilt or low self worth. Maybe you have so much love it overflows onto everyone you know. It could be any combination of these (or any other reason really) but it does help to consider what your motivation may be.

While it’s important to be cognizant of how your actions might affect others, when practicing self care you should be truly focusing on YOU.

Another unfortunate (and unavoidable) factor that usually confounds our ability to truly take care of ourselves is one that seems to take the blame for everything – society. We’re told to take care of ourselves but we’re not told how. And it’s pretty confusing to figure out… I think everyone needs taking care of a little differently, yet only some ways are promoted or considered “acceptable” while many others are not. In my opinion, this makes it more difficult for some to really listen to what they need and instead they pursue a route held in higher esteem by the culture in which we live. A route which may not genuinely coincide with their individual goals, values, or needs.

Sure this may be kind of a small issue, but in my mental health journey I realized how little I have ever actually done things for myself of for my own well-being. What I’ve been discovering this past year is similar to What I think of as a transition many high school kids go through – what makes me happy? Why should I care what others think? Can I accept what is good for my soul? And who can I connect with that shares similar values as I do?

For whatever reason someone comes to stop listening to themselves, the result is likely always detrimental. So forget what society tells you happiness should look like. Question where you’ve been conditioned to look for “health” and wellbeing.

Self care isn’t always green smoothies, yoga, expensive vacations, or a glass of Wine. It’s not even usually achieving everything you set your mind to, getting a high paying job or a large house. Self care can be anything and everything. And usually changes over time. Once you think you’ve got it figured out, you may find yourself growing out of things or discovering you really need something different.

Society might tell you doing things for yourself is selfish, or that resting is lazy. “You should go to the gym”, “you should eat healthier” – well in some cases, you honestly need the exact opposite. Don’t be hard on yourself (or others) for not fitting a stereotypical version of “wellness”.

For me recently self care has been: eating, accepting help, trying to welcome affection and trying to share my feelings. Some days it’s been pushing a little extra hard to get out of bed in the morning, trying to stop biting my nails until they bleed, or not canceling a therapy session even though I really want to. I’ve had to ask my friends to hold me accountable, I’ve allowed myself to feel my emotions (mostly), I allow myself to collapse, to cry, and to make mistakes (with minor self blame…). I’ve gone the longest I ever have in my young adult life without exercising. I’ve eaten more ice Cream than I can remember ever having eaten. Writing helps too sometimes. Yes, there’s a good deal of anxiety involved, but when isn’t there?!

It’s pretty contrary to how I’ve always lived but Maybe at this point in my life this is what I need. Five months ago, self care looked completely different – any day where I was alive was all I could manage. I don’t think I’ll ever know with 100% certainty what’s the best thing to do, but that’s asking for perfection.

I’ve told myself not to listen to what I want (or need) for so long I’ve forgotten what it is I actually do want. I prioritized others, prioritized achievement, weight loss, and restriction. Things I thought would lead me to objective happiness and success. But they didn’t. And in recovery I’m learning to trust my body again and listen to what fuel I need. At the same time I’m learning to listen to what my heart and mind and soul need as well. I’m following my stomach and my heart. I’m refeeding my passion and emotions. Tuning into my body and mind for what is real and what I truly need. Yes it’s trial and error but life is trial and error! How many times did you fall before you learned to walk? What if you had refused to stand up and keep trying?

I guess It’s like nurturing a child (yourself) back to life. You may not know what you need but you’ve definitely been learning what you don’t (in itself recognizing detrimental habits takes time – let alone changing them).

Did the baby poop? Is it hungry? Who knows. We’ll try different things but here’s what not to do.

The beauty of it is that you get to explore the world all over again.

Trying to find out what self care means to you is when you really have to tap in to how you’re feeling, what makes you happy? What puts you at ease? What do you genuinely enjoy? Unfortunately, what you truly enjoy might not be easy to figure out. Some of us have been suppressing our true emotions and desires for a long time so it’s hard to regain access to them. It’s okay if this takes time. This is the journey of getting to KNOW yourself. One of the most important steps towards self acceptance (and maybe one day even self love) is to truly know yourself. Think of it as if you’re a little kid again. Everything you may have previously overlooked has the potential to make you happy and you get to look at life through a new lens.

I hope this journey of self discovery is so wonderfully eye opening.

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