You don’t call your cell phone selfish for having little juice left in its battery. Instead you immediately find the closest charger. Yet “selfish” is what you may call yourself when you need recharging. Confusing the difference between self-care and being selfish can block your ability to create an essential self-care practice.
If you have not learned how to give yourself appropriate doses of self-care, running on “empty” and not taking care of yourself may be common. As a result, your nerves can get frazzled and you feel overloaded much of the time. This sets the stage for you to be easily triggered and “go reactive,” thereby engaging the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT).
Learning that you have personal needs that require your attention and renewal is very difficult for many. As a child, you may have heard: “Don’t be selfish” or “Let Johnny go first.” You may believe you have to work harder and longer to stay ahead, negating the idea that you even need to renew your energy.
The modern world of work has become so intense that there is little boundary between you and your work, creating a constant state of fatigue for many. Do you take self-care and the recovery time you need to replenish your energy seriously?
Depleting your natural energy allows your inner Persecutor to take over. When this happens, it is easy to become overly critical of yourself and likely, critical of others. When you finally say, “I deserve some time to myself,” the choices you make may be self-centered and not rejuvenating at all.
For example, Donna worked with a client to create a self-care practice. When she asked how he took care of himself now, he said, “I go drinking with my buddies. We get drunk at the local casino and stay out late.” Donna asked, “Do you feel rejuvenated the next day?” He said, “Heck, no, not at all. I am hung over and feel guilty about losing money.”
That’s not a self-care practice.
The question is how to care for yourself, so you have sustained energy to live from the place of being the Creator you are, the central role in TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic). In today’s busy world, self-care has become synonymous with a massage, yoga, glass of wine, or a vacation. Those are fine options for something that temporarily relaxes you.
However, there is a deeper level of self-care that begins with believing that you have needs in the first place and putting them as a priority. Many times, self-care must come first to have energy for others – much like the advice given during the safety instructions on an airplane: “If the oxygen mask comes down, place it over your mouth before assisting others.”
Self-care is also not a journey or something to cross off your “to-do” list. The compulsion for a complete over-haul puts you at risk of unrealistic expectations and disappointment if you don’t feel better. Self-care is not an accomplishment or something to feel guilty about if you are not “doing it right.” Deep self-care is about relating to yourself first, as the Creator you are, rather than a problem to fix with another TV binge or chocolate splurge.
A sustainable self-care practice begins with a clear intention to support and appreciate yourself. A practice can begin with taking 5 minutes several times throughout your day to intentionally pause and reflect upon what brings you joy. Going for a relaxing walk or simply doing nothing, standing still for a few moments and resisting the action urge “to do” is another type of self-care.
Maintaining a daily self-care practice, just a few minutes at a time, and intentionally acknowledging your need to rejuvenate, is a practice that will support you as a Creator. Gradually you will notice you feel better and are better equipped to weather the moments of daily drama when they arise.