5 Myths About Self-Care
During one of my many stints as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, a Uzbekistan student invited my co-workers and I to an Uzbek restaurant in Bensalem, just outside of Philadelphia. The ambience was intriguing and intimate. Unsure of what to order, his uncle brought us a spread of food to try. After trying several dishes were were pleased with the savory food. Then his uncle brought us another spread, this time with different food. We indulged again, enjoying the company.
By his uncle’s fourth spread we were stuffed and had to refuse the food, at the risk of being perceived as rude. However, to our relief, it was simply his goal to overwhelm us with hospitality. In the end we left full, delighted, and everything was on the house.
Unfortunately, living in our fast-paced, multi-task, society, when we refuse “extra” in regard additional work and tasks, our rejection is frowned upon. We aren’t allowed to say no, even when it jeopardizes our health. I think the biggest challenge of self-care is that you are subject to a guilt trip for learning to say no when your plate is too full. It doesn’t matter what kind of job you have or what life responsibilities you have, most people have felt the guilt: from parents, to teachers, to spouses, to spiritual leaders...no one has been exempt (unless you happened to be surround by people who value this!).
With the feeling of guilt, we often justify the need to over extend ourselves. These are five myths that I have experienced for myself. While I used to believe each one of these, as I built a healthier sense of self-care I realized how ridiculous they were.
Myth 5: You need permission to take a break.
Chances are, if you truly need permission from anyone (aside from requesting time off for the formality of a job), including your family or friends, you are not surrounded by people who hold your self-care in high esteem. They may value you as a person, but what many people don’t realize is that the preservation and sustainability of that value will be rendered useless if you have no more energy or health. If you allow people to literally suck the life out of you, they will. Then they will move on and do it to someone else. Don’t inadvertently become a victim. Stand up for yourself. If your lack of self-care has been transpiring for years, you may receive a lot of resistance and backlash, but would you rather deal with that or some debilitating illness that renders you incapacitated to even care for yourself? Ask politely and then ask firmly. If it is literally impossible for you to take a break seek additional help and resources in cases where you are, for example, a caretaker, and seek an exit strategy in cases like jobs where you are there of your own free will.
Myth 4: Those closest to you will support and even encourage your self-care.
When I was attending school and surrounded by spiritual leaders, I was surprised at the amount of responsibilities and stress that many of them reported. Shouldn’t they, of anyone, be stress-free, be rested in order to be able to invest into the lives of others? I found that the exact opposite was true. Those who invested the most in others were the most depleted. It was because they had this subconscious idea that if they poured out enough of themselves into everyone else, they would be loved enough that others would pour back into them. Restoration sometimes does happen this way, but it is rare. Burnout is far more prevalent. Restoration doesn’t occur by osmosis, you have to be intentional. You have to be responsible for your own preservation in order to continue to be influential toward anyone else.
Myth 3: Self-care is selfish.
People frown upon those whose lives are centered around themselves with little regard to others. Somehow the guilt from this idea festers into everything and anything people do for themselves. But we have to distinguish the difference between the two. Selfishness is always saying no to helping others regardless of the ability to help. Self-care is saying no to helping others when your well-being will be impacted so much so that you will not be able to help others at all. Selfishness is seeing that you will not have a health deficit if you extend yourself. Self-care is recognizing your capacity to help and declining when you have reached that capacity and have over extended yourself. Over extending yourself may give some temporary relief to someone else, but may end up permanently impacting your ability to help anyone else.
Myth 2: Self-care always has to be hours or days at a time.
Even when we live a more balanced life and adhere to our boundaries, we will have times where we do not have the leisure of setting aside hours or days to relax and restore ourselves. Sometimes we may only have an hour daily. Sometimes we may only have 10 minutes out of an entire day. The point is that we must make that time and we must be consistent. It is reasonable for people to start out with only ten minutes a day. That’s how I started. When you are consistent with your 10 minutes you can slowly increase the time. When you miss your time, you will realize the difference (that is if you are truly taking that time to decompress and disconnect from your distractions!). Schedule it as a meeting on your calendar or even as an alarm. Take your self-care more seriously than your most important tasks, because it empowers you to better perform those tasks.
Myth 1: I will rest when I…
...finish this project ...get through this month ...get a new job ...am dead!
Don’t delay your rest. There will always be something to do. There will always be something pressing. There will always be an excuse not to. Yes you will probably feel guilty a lot. I still do, often! Press through the guilt. While you may not appreciate it at the time, sometimes it won’t be until several hours or even days later when you look back and realize you were really tired and you really did need to rest. Or maybe you really just need a clear head or an additional boost of energy to get you through the next thing. Don’t put off resting. Always make it a vital part of your schedule, tasks, and life.
The Body Buffet creates handmade artisan soap, shampoo, conditioners, spa bars, beard care, body wash and more for Baltimore, the DMV, and beyond. We have been creating conditioning skin-loving, hair-loving, since 2009. Visit our shop at www.thebodybuffet.com. Marquita Johl is the soaper-in-chief. She has been crafting soap for eleven years.