Taking care of ourselves should be easy. Why is this a hard thing?
“How have I taken care of myself today?
How have I shown myself love today?
I haven’t, but I meant to.”
If you say this to yourself, you’ve got a lot of company.
It’s a real curiosity, isn’t it? Taking care of yourself, theoretically, sounds awesome.
You get to do what you want and need. You can go at your own pace, relax, you can even pay someone to put paint on your feet while you sit in a vibrating chair, and watch HGTV with five other women who are all doing the same thing without acknowledging each other (why don’t we think this is weird?).
You get to read books, buy yourself flowers, drink fizzy water with pretty fruit in it, and hang out with your favorite friends. You can do all of these amazing things.
Doesn’t that sound divine? Imagine trodding through the world with the boldness of spirit that your magenta glitter polished toes have given you and the assurance that you take care of yourself because you fully believe that you are worth keeping in tip-top condition.
Often it’s a struggle to do even one act of self-love on a regular basis.
Together, you and I are on a two-person quest to unearth, just why it’s so hard to care for ourselves.
In this three part-er look at why the heck it’s so hard to look after ourselves (see Part One here and Part Three…coming soon), we examine the second reason why you may be neglecting yourself-
In the first post of the trio, I lay out the three major categories that can block the way to what’s best for you:
Environmental and Logistical (Part One- read me)
Habitual (Part Two- You are HERE red dot on map)
What You Believe (Part Three- on the way)
Okay habits, your turn!
Habitual Hurdles To Your Self-Care –
This is your physical, mental, and emotional routine. You practice this stuff so regularly, it’s automatic. You don’t question it. It’s your flow, and it’s dang hard to interrupt.
We’ve all got em.
We’ve all got good ones.
Annoying ones (not our problem though, right, heh heh).
Self-defeating or sabotaging ones.
And straight-up bad ones.
I’d like to take a look with the lens of a scientific/observational point of view.
We won’t be digging into guilt and I don’t love myself enoughs in this section.
(That’s coming up next in Part Three! Yeehaw!)
Let’s get this straight.
Your mind and body have patterns they depend on.
Your mind and body have routines that help them function.
Your mind and body are doing what they have been trained to do.
Your mind and body like to keep you safe from lions that can eat you.
Your beautiful mind and loyal body are trying to help you, God bless ‘em.
Let’s accept this.
Your mind and body are out to get you.
Wait! I mean protect you! Protect you.
Your mind and body aren’t out to get you. That’s crazy…right?
Truth is, your body and mind are always looking to protect you and keep you alive.
However, it can honestly feel like your mind and body are out to get you. As if they’re your enemies or want to make life harder or more difficult for you. Filling your head with depressing thoughts of dying alone or desperately holding on to the last ten pounds you’d like to lose. It really can feel like you’re working against yourself sometimes.
We can thank the last 200,000 years of adapting to our surroundings for some of these outdated functions. They’re there for a reason. Well, they got there for a reason, at the very least.
But our real threats aren’t snacking lions anymore. They’re things like too much work and stress, not enough sleep and green stuff. So it’s easy to see how our minds and bodies, though thoughtful in their efforts, can operate in ways that interfere with what we actually want for ourselves. When survival is the modus operandi, a monthly pedicure habit falls low on the list.
So let’s be clear and embrace that your wonderfully loyal and survivalist mind and body are always trying to work for your benefit and extend your life expectancy.
They are survival machines- like The Terminator.
No matter the damage or ugly ways of doing it, the body and mind follow the directive: survive.
So they create shortcuts, follow the easiest and fastest route, create pathways and routines that meet your basic survival needs with ease. These shortcuts don’t typically include thoughtfulness about your mental health or self-confidence.
No matter how completely unhelpful it can actually be, no matter how much their patterns can stand in the way of living a life you want to live… sigh of frustration and possibly eye roll here…no matter how it comes across, your mind and body are on your side. They’re trying their best.
Recognizing that it all comes from a good place is important. You want to work with your mind and body, not begrudgingly against them.
Another thing about your wonderfully made body and brain, is they are both comfort and pleasure seekers.
All of these things are awesome. Truly.
But it can feel like the odds are stacked against you when it comes to stopping poor habits and strengthening beneficial habits. And well, they kinda are.
But if we let our impulses and habits lead us,
we’d be free! Free I tell ya! we wouldn’t have the quality we seek in our life.
You absolutely, positively, can change your self-care (and all) habits for your betterment.
To set yourself up for a win here, you need to be prepared to use your mind. A lot.
Here’s what you’ll need to do:
Interrupt your rhythm and flow
Acknowledge your resistance and discomfort. Then choose to take care of yourself anyway.
Learn to love the word “small.”
(Small steps. Small improvements. Small victories.)
Here’s a real-life made up example to take you through these steps:
Interrupt your flow and your rhythm-
You wake up, roll over with your eyes still partly glued together, reach for your phone and begin to check your emails and scroll on Instagram. It’s second nature. It’s automatic.
Interrupt that flow. Physically stop.
Ask yourself why you’re reaching for your phone to look at emails and Instagram first thing in the morning? Yech.
Acknowledge your discomfort. Choose to take care of yourself anyway-
You feel anxious and tight in your chest because you really want to know what’s online. You feel grumpy, unsettled, and impatient.
You allow those feelings to be there and have a space. You don’t shut them up or move on. And as you feel those things, you STILL choose to do something that will better fill you up.
Learn to love the word “small”-
You put your phone down, close your eyes, hug your knees into your chest for a little stretch and rock side to side. You do this for a full minute.
Now you can look at your phone and it’s okay. You had a victory.
Interrupt your rhythm and flow.
Acknowledge your discomfort. Choose to take care of yourself anyway.
Learn to love the word “small.”
It’s a simple recipe to alter your habits and create new ones. But It does take practice.
Try to experiment this week with how many automatic habits you can notice and interrupt. Sit with those uncomfortable feelings and sensations you have, and do something small to move forward.
There. Another discovery in the great mystery of why we don’t take care of ourselves. Well done, us.
But what if there’s something more to it? Hmm.. let’s go for a dig. Part Three, here we come.
*While I do appreciate science, it’s not my source of strength. Here are some good resources if you’re interested in learning for real: