Self care isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.
I am a giver and a peacemaker. I seek harmony in my surroundings. Harmony in relationships is what I value most of all, so it has been easy for me to be the one who bends within them. I mold myself and my own needs around what the people in my life need or want.
I do this without them even realizing I am doing it. Most of the time, I do it without me realizing I am doing it, either!
In the past, I pushed myself to the point of feeling burnt out and emotionally exhausted more times than I can count. But it’s not the large events in life which have the worst potential to exhaust me.
Right now I am sitting at a table in the waiting area of a public swimming pool, typing on my tablet. My youngest son and husband are swimming. We are away from home for the weekend – my husband was working out of town, so we decided to join him for a few days.
They wanted to go swimming. I decided not to go into the pool today. I am enjoying myself at one of the viewing tables. As I listen to the music the lifeguards have playing, I can smell the sharp scent of chlorine in the water, and hear the excited laughter of the children in the pool.
I didn’t go swimming today for a few reasons. One, I just coloured my hair yesterday. Helloooo blooming cloud of darkness in the water! I would look like a squid which got spooked and shot ink as a defensive maneuver.
Second, it is winter. It’s -24 degrees Celsius outside. The thought of getting chilled to the bone by swimming in a pool of lukewarm water does not appeal to me at all. Not to mention having to climb in and out of said lukewarm water into the freezing cold air surrounding the pool – to go up stairs and down slides, or hang onto floaty things – I’m cold just thinking about it.
Third, and final. And most important. I didn’t want to go swimming because I just…didn’t want to go swimming. So, I didn’t.
I didn’t feel like it today.
I wanted to come, I wanted to be here in the building with my family, but I wanted to be doing exactly what I am doing right now – sitting, relaxing, drinking a warm cup of coffee, writing and thinking.
Observing. People watching. Getting enjoyment from glancing up to see my youngest son and my husband having a water fight together in the pool.
From the outside, to a casual observer, I know I could be looked at critically. I am being a “bad mom”. I should be in the water like many of the other moms here today. I should have pushed aside my own desires for the day, and forced myself to do something I really did not want to do.
Even worse, from the outside, I am being a “distracted mom”, because I’m typing on my tablet instead of following my family around and taking pictures of their every movement.
My decision to not go into the pool does not make me a bad mom. And I’m not a distracted mom either. I did not go into the pool today because I am a person who knows it’s ok to take care of myself.
I find it easier nowadays to allow myself to make these choices to do what I truly need and want to do in a situation, instead of immediately doing what I think those around me expect me to do.
I am far more willing to put myself into a spot where I could be viewed as a “bad” or “distracted” mom in order to go down my own path of enjoyment or take care of my needs.
Ever since I accepted that I am a highly sensitive person, I am more conscious now than ever in my life that my needs for self care are just as important as caring for those around me.
It’s the small events, all piled up, one after another after another, which wear me out the most. And so, because of this, my small actions for self care – such as not going into the pool when I really would rather relax with a cup of coffee – are more important than I used to give them credit for.
The words “self care” can feel tainted with a sense of shame. You mention self care and often the message heard is “I come first”. Those around you hear “selfishness”. And because it is viewed as selfish, we ourselves begin to believe that is truth.
Self care is anything but selfish. When I choose to take care of my individual needs for rest, calm, enjoyment and recharge, I am able to return from a state of feeling stretched-thin back to a place of feeling focused and energized.
Stress and overwhelm cause me to almost forget who I am sometimes. Self care helps me to become myself again.
I am able to engage more fully with my loved ones. I am able to live more fully in the moment. I am more able and more willing to give of my time and energy to the people and tasks around me.
I will not always choose to sit on the sidelines instead of swimming with my family. I will continue to push myself beyond my comfort zone sometimes in order to attend band concerts, run to baseball practices, and freeze my butt off while sledding on a winter day, even when I don’t feel like it.
I will continue to do those things because they are important to the people I love. They are important in building the relationships I care about. And I love when my loved ones are happy.
But I will also continue to pick and choose small moments for self care. And will not feel shame in doing so. Caring for myself is the first step in being able to properly love others, and it is the best step in continuing to be wholly, me.
Image Credit: Thomas Autumn
A bend in the road led me to embrace my introversion, and to discover my identity as a highly sensitive person. As I have moved along the path in learning more about who I am, how to take care of myself as an introvert, and how to handle the challenges of life as an HSP - my love of writing has been rekindled and embraced once again. It intertwines with the journey I am on, and is reflected in what I write.