Sometimes self-care isn’t the fun, get a massage and mani/pedi type stuff. Sometimes it is the stay home when you are sick, clean your house and get sh*t done stuff. Sometimes it is the sit down and listen to yourself kind of stuff.
On any average work day, my schedule holds 5-10 people to see. As a psychotherapist, this means that I listen for most of the day and if I listen well then, I hear. My psychotherapy work is primarily with women who have anxiety, high stress levels, codependent relationships and/or maybe trauma histories. When I truly listen, I hear story after story of women not taking care of themselves. Story after story of women putting others before their own wellbeing. Story after story of women putting themselves last and not feeling “worthy” of even basic self-care. Many times, because this is what they were told. Many times, this is what they still hear from themselves and other people.
When we talk basic self-care, this is stuff like eating, sleeping, drinking water; the things that are necessary for survival. It is astounding how many women (and men) do not sleep or eat yet they take care of others day in and day out. Guess what? Much of the time they end up in my office because they cannot take care of others anymore. They are sick and can barely function. Sometimes they try to push through and it can result in dangerous mistakes at home/work that could be avoided by basic self-care.
Why? Why do so many strong, smart and otherwise powerful women ignore the basics of taking care of themselves? Often it comes down to their core beliefs about self-care or doing for themselves.
Core beliefs are those beliefs that keep coming back up and they lead us to make unconscious choices in our actions with everything but especially in our own care.
It is selfish. I would be a bad mom. My family needs me more. No one else will do the dishes/laundry etc. I don’t have time. I am a caretaker for ____. I have 4 kids. My mom is sick.
What are core beliefs? Core beliefs are those things that are deep inside you that you just know to be true. The things that you were unconsciously taught by your parents, who were taught by their parents and it goes back generations. These beliefs are the critical voice that your mom used when you were a kid (or maybe she still uses it). Core beliefs show up when we feel like we mess up. When we are feeling good they show up in self-sabotage.
Many go something like this.
I am not good enough, I don’t deserve X, Y or Z. I am bad, I am a loser, I am stupid, I will never be as good as X, Y or Z. I am not worthy.
Maybe you recognize some of these from your own thoughts? When the core beliefs show up we often take it as a sign to do more or give more or take care of others ‘better or more’. This keeps the vicious cycle of giving and not taking care of ourselves going and going. What if we did something different though?
What if when these core beliefs start screaming at you, you stopped to listen? What would happen if you had a conversation with them? You saw them, acknowledged them and spent some time seeing what they need or want.
Maybe your conversation could go something like this.
Hey you in there telling me I am stupid. I see you. Why do you keep coming back? Why do you follow me everywhere good things happen? What do you need?
Then … listen …
Or maybe the conversation is kind and gentle.
I hear you voice that always criticizes me. It makes me feel ____ when you do that. How can we work together more often?
Then … listen …
Most of the time your core beliefs are those parts of you that didn’t get what they needed when they were here. You learned to stuff your needs/wants when they were not met and got so good at it that you stopped trying to get them met at all. Even when it was safe and you were all alone with yourself you stopped listening.
What if self-care is really a love story about loving yourself? Connecting to your inner child and nurturing her as you do your own children.
Do you force your kiddos to skip lunch so they get more work done? Do you yell at co-workers when they stay home because they have the flu? Do you call up your best friend and tell her she is a loser because she went to yoga class? If your sister told you she needed a break from taking care of her chronically ill mother in law would you berate her?
Nope. My challenge to you is to spend the next few days treating yourself like you would a child or friend. Be kind, listen, hear, serve.
If you want to learn more about how you can get past your core beliefs and to the heart of self-care check out the 6 hour NBCC Law & Ethics in Practice: The Clinician in Private Practice live webinar coming up on March 31 here.