Self-Care… and Guilt

A conversation I have many times throughout the week, every week, is one in which I am encouraging someone to practice self-love and self-care. I have this conversation so often because many, many women I know and some men I know, too, are much better at taking care of others than taking care of themselves.

I understand completely, because I am also better at taking care of others. Over the past month, I have had several experiences that each reminded me that following my own advice about self-love and self-care is neither easy nor automatic. Faced with a choice between helping someone else or doing something that I believe I need to do to help myself, I always hesitate and feel some level of discomfort in choosing me. Always.

And so, I am writing this post because I cannot continue to suggest that others “take care of themselves first” without also acknowledging that this decision often sparks feelings of letting someone down, or feeling selfish, or feeling guilty.

Here are some things I have learned and am re-learning about practicing self-care…

… I need (and I choose this word carefully) to remind myself in the “decision-making moment” to actually DO what I advise others to do –- make the choice to take care of myself before caring for others.

… I need to remind myself in that same decision-making moment that delaying self-care is a chronic and unhealthy default.

… Once I have made the decision to practice self-care first, I need to examine closely the guilt that surges up even after years of understanding the importance of self-care and trying to practice it.

… I then examine whether I feel I do not deserve my own love and care, and why that could still be true.

And then, after all of this, I begin to feel better about choosing self-care and I ask myself, “Will this ever be easy for me?” The answer remains the same –- “I do not know.”

6 thoughts on “Self-Care… and Guilt”

  1. I have just returned from a summer of self-care! I had felt increasingly depressed March through May Due to COVID, I had no work and the summer plans I had made were cancelled because of the pandemic as well.

    Usually I work on the lake in Maine for the summer but there was no work this year. The lake renews my spirit and swimming makes me exceptionally happy. I made a bold decision to rent a boathouse on the water anyway. Saying “yes” to myself was scary at first. However, I was and am thrilled that I dared to prioritize my need to go to a place I love- without work- just for replenishment.

    I now know, through experience, that my “happy place” makes me happy and that I can and will go there when I need to. It is empowering.

  2. Sharon,
    Thank you for bringing up this topic. My role-model was my mom, who always put others in the family and their care before herself. So, even to this day I do the same. In many ways to care for others is wonderful, especially in their times of need, BUT, I have found it can be to the detriment of my own wellbeing. This is something I need to work on and honestly I am not sure how to start.

    1. Sharon, a great reminder and thanks for sharing! This summer I put myself first but it was tough not feeling guilty. I do feel stronger now!

  3. WOW! Sometimes I do think you’re clairvoyant….the last several weeks have been very trying…. the nurse, the Mother, the Wife and the Friend in me has been so busy supporting so many others in their crisis and then their grief that it finally came crashing down on me today …. with a total meltdown…. all by myself…. that I totally needed… you are totally spot on…. our lives are many times about taking care of others … but it is automatic…. we don’t even think about it…we are last … not sure it can be fixed!! You sure do make one sit back and think about it though!!! Thx…

  4. Self Care, resentment and GUILT are big players for me lately. Working from home has been great – allowing more time with the family in a more relaxed setting. At the same time, being home all the time, with a teenager and an elderly mom, has frustrated me. They sleep late, take naps, and then say how tired they are – all the while expecting me to plan and cook, etc. The balance has been tough.

    Still finding the right way – and hoping with the start of virtual school at least a bit more defined schedule will help in some ways

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