It still amazes me that I am allowed to take care of myself.
The whole idea of putting on one’s own oxygen mask before helping others has been foreign to me. Or should I say that in the past it has been foreign. Recently, I have made a concerted effort to include my own needs in my plans. This can be seen in my attitude towards things I always found dear.
For example, in 30 plus years, I called out of work twice, and both times it was family related.
Within the past three months, I called out once for myself. It just seemed I was off, and I needed a day to sleep. And so, I called out and slept. Now that wasn’t as easy as it sounds, and I did feel guilty for a bit. But I soon got over it and was able to finish the day resting and recharging.
It felt like everyone benefited from my absence.
So when I think about self-care, I find I need to reach deeper. I want to or feel I need to justify why I need to take care of myself at this moment. This leads me to all kinds of non-important conversations in which I lay out to the world, why I need a few minutes of self-care, of me time.
Me time has a selfish component when I think about it.
I imagine I learned to put others first at an early age. And having a history of depression doesn’t necessarily help to paint a clear picture of my daily priorities. I know I have done things for others because my depression told me it was a good idea. And I believed it and did it. I have switched schedules at work knowing that I was going to be inconvenienced. But the needs of the business came first. Well, the needs of the people I work with came first. Now if I can swap, I do, but my go to move is not to automatically to say yes without reviewing my needs for that day.
This new attitude is liberating but it comes at a personal cost.
What if I say NO and then they don’t like me anymore. There, I said it out loud. There’s a chance they will hate me if I say no. There’s a chance that this no will surface time and time again driving a wedge between me and a co-worker.
This qualifies as an unhelpful thinking style.
There is no evidence that this has ever happened in any building I have worked in. I am taking the simple act of saying no and magnifying it and creating an all or nothing type of situation where one does not exist. Depression uses 10 unhelpful thinking styles all the time in its interactions with me.
Maybe that’s why I’m so quick to employ this line of thinking.
All of this cancels out my self-care ideas and leaves me feeling guilty for not self-advocating. The more I defer to others, the guiltier I feel. Before, it was feeling guilty that I wasn’t doing enough. Even After switching schedules, I would take on tasks that only benefitted others. And then I would feel behind because I still had what I was responsible for getting done.
Now I am getting better at compartmentalizing, and I can complete my tasks without undue stress.
I am beginning to see that my work has value and I don’t need validation from others to feel good about myself and my work. This whole idea of self-worth is the main reason I am focusing on self-care. In the past, I did not feel good about myself. I was aways trying to do more, do better, be quicker, more accurate. And never being satisfied, I was always feeling frustrated by my efforts, when in truth they are as good as anyone’s efforts, and even better than some.
That feeling of guilt and shame is not coming out as often these days.
And so, my thoughts about self-care have evolved and are still a work in progress. My need to be perfect has giving way to a more realistic approach of what is expected. Even setting my sights slightly higher, I am still not expecting perfection.
So, the next 10 minutes will be focused on me.
Even as I began to type that last sentence, I hesitated when it came time to write “on me.” I guess I haven’t completely outgrown my feelings of inadequacy.