This week in the Brain BS™ Blog and Podcast, I am going to explore how self-care and making ourselves a priority is critical to our quality of life and peace of mind. I am going to share how practicing self-care does not always feel good and it how it can at times require a great deal of personal discomfort on our part to follow through with it. I will give personal examples of how I finally learned to make myself a priority and practice self-care after decades of putting everybody else first. I will also argue the case for why you need to stop worrying about what other people think of you and do that too.
Okay, let’s start with what I mean by self-care because it does not always look like the bubble baths and pampering we often associate with taking care of ourselves. I am not saying there is not a place for luxurious indulgence at times, but real self-care comes from making our needs just as important as the people around us. True self-care comes from a deep love of self and a willingness to honor ourselves and have our own backs. How might that look, you ask? It looks like saying no, setting clear boundaries and reinforcing them, and being honest and authentic despite how uncomfortable that might be.
Let’s begin by discussing how often we say yes when we want to say no, even if it is not in our best interest. As women, we tend to be willing to sacrifice what we want for the benefit of others. We actually talk ourselves into believing that is noble and worthy and something to celebrate. The truth is, it is a cop-out and just another example of people-pleasing that we do because we do not believe we are as worthy as the other people involved. Saying yes when we really want to say no, also leads to growing resentment.
I want to talk about the importance of boundaries and reinforcing them consistently now as part of our self-care. First of all, boundaries are not about attempting to control other people because that is not possible and will never work. Boundaries are just letting other individuals know that if you do X, I will do Y. By stating it this way, we make it clear what the consequence will be if another human behaves a certain way. Creating that boundary in and of itself, will not accomplish anything. We have to be prepared to reinforce the boundary consistently. There is no need for anger or judgment, we can reinforce the boundary in a kind and loving way. Instead of attempting to control the behavior of other humans, we just have to manage our minds and control ourselves. The result of establishing clear boundaries and reinforcing them is that we find an empowering way to manage the situation that works for us.
Alright, now let’s talk about honesty and authenticity. Tell the truth, how many of us are honest and authentic with our loved ones? I know I wasn’t for a very long time. I would go with the flow and do whatever everybody else wanted because I did not want to rock the boat or disappoint somebody else. As a result, my resentment grew, and I became a self-righteous martyr totally immersed in victimhood which completely robbed me of my personal power. I am not going to lie; it makes me a little bit sick just thinking back to who I used to be and how I approached my family time full of Brain BS™. I always thought everything was happening to me and that nobody cared as much about me as they should. I was looking at everything from those brain filters that I shared with you last week (I am doing something wrong; I am being wronged, and I am not enough). I really thought the problem was my family members and not me. As a result, I sort of shut down to protect myself and some of my relationships became quite strained in my effort to avoid uncomfortable conversations and emotions. The problem with choosing comfort over honesty and authenticity is it will never create the intimate and loving relationships we truly desire because it shuts down vulnerability and open communication.
So now that we have discussed what self-care might look like, let’s talk a little bit about how it might feel when we first begin to practice it. I am going to be totally honest and say it can feel pretty uncomfortable and even terrifying at times. When we shift from pretending to be somebody we are not to our authentic selves, we are totally going to stir the pot in a major way. Our friends and family will wonder what the heck is going on and why all of a sudden something is a problem that never was before. They are not going to understand how much we have been suffering or how we have been truly thinking up until this point, because we have been hiding it and never trusted them with that information. My best advice here is to get comfortable being uncomfortable because it can be quite uncomfortable.
I am going to share some personal examples of how I began to practice self-care after many years of people-pleasing and trying to make other people happy. For instance, when I married my husband, I was his second wife. His daughters were 9 and 14 at the time, and his stepdaughters that he adopted were in their 30s. When I first came into our blended family, I was trying to be the awesome stepmom and the easy going and fun second wife to the ex and her older daughters. So much so that I invited the two younger girls on our honeymoon and most of the other trips we took early on in our marriage. I wanted them to like me I guess. I truly thought we could all be one happy family and had the best of intentions. I was able to hold on to that objective for a few years in fact, but I could not sustain it for much longer than that. The problem was that I had to be a phony and keep my true opinions to myself for the sake of peace and harmony amongst all of us and it was absolutely exhausting. Well guess what? A divorced family lost its harmony long before I came into the mix! LOL When I took a long hard look at my priorities, I realized I was not showing up the way I wanted to be. I was stressed out with no peace of mind, and always worried about the next thing coming my way. I felt powerless and on edge all of the time. When I started being authentic, it caused some discomfort for myself and the rest of the family, but it was the good kind in my opinion. Yes it was hard to stop the people- pleasing but it would have been even harder at that point to continue it.
Another example of practicing self-care that can be really challenging, is setting boundaries with loved ones and reinforcing them. I found it particularly hard because of my #9 status in my family of origin and thinking nobody really cared what I had to say about anything (one of my brain filters). I also had a perception of myself as a bit of an outsider in my blended family as the stepmom with no children of her own. It was so much easier to just squash my needs and desires and let everybody else have what they wanted. If they wanted to go on a two-week vacation, I would say okay. If they wanted to go to a restaurant I did not care for, I would go. I was always vigilante about monitoring everybody else’s emotions (full blown empath here) but did not worry about my own at all. I just determined this is what it is like when you do not have your own kids and you are a stepmom. I truly did not realize that this was all a result of the way I was thinking and that it was totally optional. When I did realize that everything changed for me…but it was very awkward and super uncomfortable at first.
I believe I mentioned the meltdown in Santa Barbara in prior episodes and posts where I sounded like Lucifer in the closet because I was overwhelmed, sick as a dog, and ready to blow. By that point, I was full of resentment from an extended family vacation and could not take it anymore. I thought it was everybody else who was the problem, but I know now that it was all me and I alone am responsible for my emotional state. Once I accepted that I could not continue to try to please everybody at my own expense, I had to start speaking up and it was not always what my family wanted to hear. For example, when we go to Santa Barbara these days, we make a schedule for when the girls can come and visit. They don’t get to just come and go as they please, because my energy type (Splenic Projector) requires just as much time alone as time with other humans. I take in other people’s energy and feel it as if it was my own so if there is tension, anxiety, stress, etc, it can really trigger me in that moment. The only solution is to release that energy and separate myself to replenish and rejuvenate myself. Trust me when I say that version of myself who is healthy and whole is much more loving and understanding than the phony who used to pretend she was doing okay. It also has a ripple effect and everybody else is in a better place when we gather now.
Another example is my stepdaughter often times comes home to IL with her dog who is absolutely adorable but a bit of a handful. I love her to pieces, but I have two of my own dogs who do not want her around. This requires me to supervise them more closely and could cause me distress if I had to do it over a long period of time. As a result, her dog can come here to visit for a night or two, but then she goes and stays at Olivia’s mom’s place after that. Establishing that boundary and the one in Santa Barbara were both uncomfortable for me and I put it off until putting it off was no longer an option for me. That is what happens when you don’t make your needs a priority and you are worried what other people will think of you. It is not sustainable and will eventually lead to conflict or some sort of implosion.
So you get the idea by now, that the best kind of self-care does not feel indulgent and requires a great deal of courage to practice. I know that might not be what you want to hear but believe me, the consequences of not practicing self-care is way worse. When we don’t love ourselves enough to take care of our own needs and we don’t have our own back, it chips away at our self-esteem and eats away at our soul. Loving ourselves is the cornerstone for everything we are here to do on this planet as spirits having a human experience. Without that, we cannot uncover our divine path or live up to our potential. The only way we can live our best lives, is if we are willing to experience the discomfort that comes from loving ourselves enough to make ourselves a priority at times. Consider this official permission to say no when you don't want to do something guilt-free!
In conclusion, practicing self-care does not always feel good. In fact, it can be quite uncomfortable when we start saying no, setting boundaries and reinforcing them. We will not be able to live up to our potential though, if we do not make our needs a priority at times. It is high time we stop the people pleasing and choose honesty and authenticity instead. If we do that, we can experience the peace of mind and quality of life that comes from cultivating a loving relationship with ourselves and having our own back. Join me in The Brain BS™ Podcast to discuss this further.