Do you ever feel needy, selfish, or silly for trying to take care of yourself? Does it feel indulgent or annoying to speak up for yourself and insist on doing what you need to do to feel comfortable, to feel loved, or to feel validated?
Here are some tips on how to handle these feelings so you can meet your needs with less guilt and shame:
1. Feel your feelings.
If you're feeling uncomfortable before going to the gym to take care of your body, or before leaving your child with a babysitter so you can have some me-time, let yourself feel your discomfort. Note 3 feelings you are feeling right now. Take a breath.
We often feel the need to ignore our feelings and just "soldier on." But it's okay to feel sad or weird when you're doing something for yourself, especially after a lifetime of not taking care of yourself. Take a minute or two to acknowledge and feel the feeling. Say "I feel annoyed that I have to go to the gym," or "I feel guilty about leaving my son with a babysitter."
2. Just state what you need, without an explanation.
It's easy to come up with a million reasons to not take care of yourself, and those reasons often involve other people. "My wife is too demanding. If I asked for some me-time, she'd be too mad, so I can't do it." "I am the breadwinner of my family. I'm not allowed to do anything except for making that $$." And so on, and so on.
Instead of explaining your situation, what would it feel like to just state what you need and drop the mike? You don't have to find a solution or tell everyone else what they should do to accommodate you. Let yourself just say "I need time to myself," or "I need relaxation." Repeat this statement as many times as you need. The articulation of the need is your only job.
3. Remember how taking care of you will help your relationships.
I have written before about how many of my clients have a hard time with self-care, because they are selfless people who love to take care of others. That's great! I am often that way too.
For me, it helps me to remember that taking care of myself actually makes my relationships better with my friends and family. Think of a friend or family member you have had who is not taking care of their emotional or physical needs -- they lash out, are passive aggressive, or just seem to not be taking care of themselves. As their friend, you worry about them; you think about them; and you're not sure how to help them. You know they just need to figure it out on their own.
Taking care of yourself is a gift not just to yourself, but to your community. When your friends and family know that you are taking care of yourself, they don't have to worry about you. They can trust you.
So if you don't want to think of self-care as a gift to yourself (yet), think about it as a gift to others.
4. Know that ultimately, other people are not in charge of meeting your needs.
Sometimes, meeting our needs means making requests of other people. For example, telling a guy you're dating, "Can you tell me how you feel about our relationship? I want clarity."
I do this all the time. I feel safe enough to tell my husband, "I need a hug!" or "Give me some compliments!" (I am addicted to compliments.) But in previous relationships, stating what I needed felt like I was being needy and demanding.
The key to not feeling needy or demanding is to remember that other people (even if you're married to them) are not actually in charge of meeting your needs.
"But May, you just said you demand your husband to give you hugs and he does it? So how is he not in charge of meeting your needs?" you may ask.
Well, my friend, guess what? Sometimes I need a hug and my husband isn't there. Other times, I need a hug and he just got home from work and wants nothing to do with me. I know at all times that just because I need something, doesn't mean my husband (or my mom, or my friends, etc.) are there to provide it.
It is my responsibility to state what I need, but not to convince a particular person to give me what I need.
For example, when I'm feeling insecure, and my husband isn't making me feel more secure, it may not be the time to tell him "why are you acting this way? I need you to give me compliments but you're falling asleep! You're so annoying!"
Instead, it's time for me to mourn his absence in that moment, and reach out to a friend I trust. If there is no one I can reach out to, it's time for me to do some inner work. If I'm insecure, for example, I sit with my journal and write things I love about myself. Or perhaps I look over notes from my friends. If I can't even do that, I just sit there and mourn my unmet need. I feel sad about the fact that I don't have validation right now.
If someone is not available to give you what you need, you have options. You can reach out to someone else, meet the need yourself, or mourn the unmet need. Shablam!
All you're in charge of is stating what you need, not making others help you.
5. Taking care of yourself emotionally is part of meeting your other goals.
If you're truly committed to being a part of a happy family, and having good relationships in your life, taking care of yourself is a MUST. If you want to leave a legacy of love of your community, self-care is a must.
Self-care is not a separate thing you "should do." It is part of meeting your other goals, like building good relationships and living in harmony with your family and friends.
Thinking of self-care as a part of your other goals can help you commit to it.
Got questions? Let me know in the comments. <3 <3