Ditch the self-care guilt!
Today I am welcoming the lovely Rachael Jansen to the blog with her thoughts on self-care guilt! I really needed to hear this message this week. I am off to soak in the bath now!
Women are built for caring.
We do it exceptionally well. Why then, do we feel so guilty when it comes to caring for ourselves?
When my children were little, I saw immediately the caring, mothering nature of my daughter, and the more obtuse, hunter-gatherer ways of my son. They were both sweet, tender and lovely little people, but my daughter definitely had the carer gene. She happily mothered her brother without encouragement or instruction from me.
It was a lesson in instincts for me. We all have our individual ways, and there are always exceptions to every rule, but even a quick Google search of the literature will throw up enough evidence of the nurturing nature of women, and their ability to give and give and give to those they love and care about.
We’re so good at playing the role of carer. Even pre-children, we care for our partners, but certainly after children, that care-giver nature intensifies, with good reason. There’s little we won’t do for our kids. We care for and love our partners, parents, siblings, and friends. We help strangers, charities and social groups.
But ask a mum to give to herself, and she looks either frightened or confused.
We are so conditioned to judge our worth as a woman and mother by our ability to care for others, that to take even one step towards self-care is deemed selfish. I’m not talking about long spa days and coffee dates every day, although if that’s your thing, by all means go for it.
I’m simply talking about allowing yourself the time and space to commit to healthy eating, some movement, quiet time and the permission to say no when you feel over-committed or overwhelmed.
We have all heard about and suffered from ‘mother guilt’. I don’t doubt there’s not one mother who hasn’t felt it, but it’s a term in which we generally judge (harshly) our abilities. When we talk about mother guilt, we’re for the most part talking about how we don’t measure up: we’re not a good enough mother because we work; we’re not dedicated enough to our career or work because we have to be with the kids; we’re hopeless at looking after the home because it doesn’t look like a page from a magazine. We walk around in a constant fog of guilt, always feeling like we don’t measure up on multiple fronts and continually trying to make up for it by pushing ourselves harder.
The other type of mother guilt though is equally damaging: the guilt of daring to do something for ourselves, or put ourselves first in any way. This concept terrifies mums because they think they will be judged (harshly) for doing something for themselves because if they do it, by association they’re therefore not caring for those around them.
So they stay in martyr mode, on a fast-track to fatigue, weight issues, stress, unhappiness and potentially illness and disease, all because they think ignoring their needs makes them a better person in the eyes of others, and they can’t move past feeling guilty about having a bath when they could be doing the ironing (this is an example straight from my own personal guilt-book).
If this rings true for you, let me ask you: who died and said you were less worthy of health and happiness than anyone else in your life?
Women so often have this notion that they have to earn their worth, and that once they have, they will look after themselves then because they will deserve it. They keep pushing, trying to earn themselves enough brownie points to one day ‘treat’ themselves to some self-care.
That’s a backward notion. For starters, you’re worthy already, as you are. Secondly though, self-care increases your feelings of worth and value. When someone shows you love and care, even if it’s yourself, you feel valued! Waiting for the feelings of self worth to kick in when you’re constantly telling the world your value is at the bottom of the list will never result in you cashing in.
So flip the switch. Ditch the guilt – do what you need to in order to raise your value. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll have more to give. Win-win!
Rachael Jansen is a journalist, health coach and speaker who was just like every other mum of her generation – a supermum and martyr mum trying to be all things to all people. Then she became a walking cliché – over 40 and feeling fat, tired and over it. She realised that she needed to start looking after herself or things were going to get really ugly by the time she hit 50. Years of interviewing health and happiness experts, and further study into nutrition and holistic health, turned her life around and now she’s determined to help other mums do the same. She knows that a mum who knows how to look after herself will change the world because her kids will follow her lead.
Follow Rachael at her website, Rachael Jansen.