I grew up in an environment where there was no concept of self-care. If there had been it would likely have been equated to selfishness because I was taught to put others first.
Even as an adult it’s taken me a long time to come to terms with self care, self love and self compassion. I am still learning not to listen to those internal ‘shoulds’ and to actively change the thought patterns into positive ones that give me choices, rather than leaving me feeling defeated from the start, never living up to my own expectations, and not being good enough. The aim was perfection and surprisingly, I never made it! Even when I was good, my fear was that I was not really good enough.
Only recently have I really come to terms with the reasons why those ‘shoulds’ leave me in such a lose/lose situation every time. Even if I win I still lose because today’s win may well be over shadowed by tomorrow’s failure – because at some point there WILL be a failure because (surprise, surprise) I’m not perfect.
I hadn’t been able to put the pieces of the puzzle together until I learned that ‘shoulds’ are always based on expectations – whether they are my own or someone else’s. As a child and teenager I knew that my ‘shoulds’ were my parents’ voices being replayed inside my head. I think I probably assumed that my ‘shoulds’ were also the voice of my conscience.
As an adult I realise that I have the freedom to make my own choices, and that my choices can be expectation-free if I so choose. And where there are no expectations, there can also be choices free from a sense of failure. As I’ve written many times, I choose to no longer see life in the blacks and whites my parents used as their reference points. There were so many things in life that were either black or white, right or wrong, yes or no, absolutes. The choice was ‘A’ or ‘B’ with no other alternatives. I choose instead to view life as a series of many continuums and where I stand at any given point on a continuum is simply a snapshot in time (rather than a label or judgement) and may have little bearing on where I may choose to stand tomorrow. And each continuum is made up of thousands and thousands of different shades of grey (or any other colour or colours I choose at the time). I find that there are so many more options and opportunities than I was initially led to believe. And that brings freedom. And acceptance.
And the quote above also provides me with a sense of freedom – freedom to take time to rest, time for self-care, time to be, to replenish, regenerate and renew. And when I take time for myself I am actively choosing to look after myself. It’s not selfish because actually I am important too. And there’s freedom in realising that, and valuing myself.