Women spend huge amounts of time nurturing others. We listen to our partners’ bad days, kids’ disappointments, and girlfriends’ woes. I’m not saying our efforts go unreciprocated but am just making a point. If it wasn’t for us, the plants would die, our dogs would starve, the phone would get unanswered and there’d be no Christmas lunch.
So women need to balance stress and activities, errands and meetings, and nurture themselves as they nurture others. The way I see it, women hold a tank of love in their hearts. We need to refill our own tanks otherwise the tank will run dry and we will collapse, running on empty. If we ask others to refill our love tanks for us we can become needy, co-dependent or chronically ill. We have to look after ours.
Do you feel guilty about nurturing yourself?
Alleviating guilt over self-care starts with developing a supportive muscle to soothe our inner anxiety, grief or anger. We need to be able to handle the detrimental parts of ourselves. It’s through self nurturing that children learn to accept the parts of themselves they loathe or hate to find the path to their self-acceptance and self-forgiveness.
Self-care starts with taking care of the emotional side of your being and sitting with your inner-child to comfort, soothe and reassure her. Self-nurturing starts with self-compassion, which will reduce the feelings of guilt because you know you, are the most important person in your life.
My client Ronda (not her real name) was in her early thirties and anxious about work, her forthcoming marriage and living in a foreign country. She came to me to get back to balance, find out what makes her happy, and to get back her energy, dreams and passion. She told me her job burdens and wrote to me:
“I constantly feel under pressure, having to satisfy the team and my boss. I am constantly afraid of failing or not appealing or pleasing. If I finally have free time I can only enjoy it when I’ve had some really tough days beforehand. I always feel that I have to punish myself first, so that I’ve earned the right to have fun. This is a vicious circle. I feel that I am so blessed with all I have. That’s why I think I don’t deserve to have fun or relaxing free time. As long as I suffered enough at work, I can have fantastic weekends. This is very exhausting …”
Ronda’s mother was absent, and for a portion of her life, her grandmother raised her. As a result, Ronda’s emotional needs were not met. When her mother returned home from her illness, Ronda took on a carer’s role instead of being cared for. This resulted in habits like taking care of others’ needs at the expense of her own. Nowadays she lives in a very co-dependent relationship, heightened by the fact she’s a foreigner.
Getting Ronda back to balance required an inner journey of self discovery and self-acceptance. Finding passion and joy without guilt meant acknowledging her family upbringing and the role she played. She could now de-role and let go of the guilt around feeling responsible for her mother’s illness. Rhonda had a few self-discovery sessions and did some inner-child work through affirmations and guided meditations. These were coupled with some Australian Bush Flower Essences, yoga and meditation classes, and resolutions to eat well and listen to her own needs.
Every day Rhonda spoke to her inner-child, made it feel heard and validated its feelings. She listened to statements inspired by “Love Your Inner Child” by Louise Hay:
“It wasn’t your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong. You are good. You were just a child and doing what children do. I love you exactly like you are and I will never leave you.”
Through the guided meditation, Ronda was able to hug her inner child and become better at meeting her own health and emotional needs instead of seeking assurance from others. As we learn better self-care, we can then reach out more effectively to others and show bountiful love and empathy.
Over a period of three months, Ronda made self-care a priority and began to pamper herself. She resolved to be less dependent on her fiancé. Ronda started to feel like a newborn person. She found her way back to herself and her self-esteem improved drastically. She still had expectations and drive, but could see everything much less seriously and treated herself with kindness. If we are filling our own emotional love tanks with self-respect and loving care, we will have much more to give to our families, friends and work colleagues.
Self-care means giving ourselves the treatment we need because we are worthwhile human beings. Some practical solutions you can start today include getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, meditating, making time for relaxation and seeing friends.
Self-care doesn’t work if you are a people-pleaser who bends over backwards for others. You need to desensitize yourself from the fear of conflict, of disappointing others and of being confronted by their anger and disappointment. It’s about managing your own emotions as you break patterns of martyrdom and self-sacrifice by setting boundaries, limits, rules and simply saying no.
What if self-care is not on your priority list?
I would suggest, after reading this that you welcome one relaxation activity a week and see how you feel. Choose from one of the following 12 ways to totally pamper yourself, surveyed by women as being the best:
- Coffee with a girlfriend
- Sleep in
- Organise a child-free day
- Pamper day at a spa
- Hot bath
- Good book and glass of wine
- Dance around the house
- Walk in nature
Excerpt taken from Fiona Craig’s award-winning book, Stuck in a Rut: How to rescue yourself and live your truth available on Amazon, Angus & Robbinson, Collins, Dymocks and independent bookstores throughout Australia.
A paperback copy can also be purchased through Fiona Craig’s website, Life Balance Coach.
Fiona Craig is an NLP practitioner & life coach, psychotherapist, business mentor, and published author of the award winning self-help book, “Stuck in a Rut – How to rescue yourself & live your truth” helping women remove the fear, worry and guilt to confidently take the steps towards creating the life they want to live.
Fiona has been interviewed by The Australian Women’s Weekly, Women’s Fitness Magazine and The New Daily and written articles for Collective Magazine, Herald Sun Melbourne, Sunday Life Magazine, Career One, I Am Woman Magazine, plus Mouths Of Mums and other online publications. You can learn more about working with Fiona at www.lifebalancecoach.com.au or call 0405 433 217.