You might put yourself last on your list. Work. Housework. Bills. Kids. Spouse. It’s as though everyone and everything deserve care and tending except for you. Or you skimp on sleep regularly and ignore your needs. Or you berate yourself for most things. Or for everything. Or you let people walk all over you. You let people into your life who don’t have your best interests at heart. Or you don’t let yourself sit down and rest, because you think you’re only worthy when you’re being productive and efficient and crossing off tasks.
Recently, bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert wrote this powerful post on her Facebook page. Here’s an excerpt:
Sometimes, when I catch myself feeling unloveable or self-abusing, I try to imagine that I am an animal, adopted from the humane society, who has been placed into my own care. Maybe an animal that some bad things have happened to. Maybe an animal that is anxious and confused. Maybe an animal that has been wounded. Maybe an animal that is lost.
What does that animal need and deserve? Healthy food, a warm place to sleep, a safe place of shelter, tender affections, plenty of walks in the sunshine. Kindness. Tenderness. Patience.
Can you try to see yourself as an animal in need of rescue? And can you offer yourself that rescue? Can you try to see that you, too, are a simple mammal, born innocent, deserving of tenderness, needful of love, fearful of pain? Can you reach out to yourself with gentleness — as if you were that cat or dog who had been caged for far too long?
I like Gilbert’s suggestion to imagine ourselves as animals. It’s an important perspective shift. Because think about how you’d treat an animal. You’d feed your animal whenever it was hungry. You’d never let your animal starve. You’d feed it foods with nutrients and yummy treats that would satisfy your animal’s taste buds. You’d show your animal lots of affection. You’d tend to your animal’s many other needs, instead of ignoring, criticizing or dismissing them. Instead of getting angry with your animal for having needs — like the need for nourishment and love and compassion — you’d simply provide them.
To me this is a critical question that can help us to transform how we tend to ourselves: Thinking of yourself as a precious animal, because you are, what kind of care can you extend your way?
Gilbert also notes that whether you believe your life is God-given or the result of some random accident, “you have been given stewardship over one fragile human existence…we have been entrusted with a life to protect, and that this life is our own.”
So here’s another critical question to consider: How do you care for the life you’ve been entrusted to protect (i.e., your own precious, fragile life)?
Try not to think of this as extra pressure or as another thing you should be doing that you’re not doing. And how could you?? Instead, try to think of this as a helpful way to adjust your perspective — to help you explore and reconsider how you care for yourself; to help you take actions that support you, emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.
Because remember that you, as much as anybody, deserve your own love and affection. What might this love and affection look like?
P.S., To celebrate Weightless turning six, I’m giving away a book of your choice to one U.S. reader. Learn more by clicking on this post, where I also share three life-changing lessons on body image and self-care.