What is Self-Care?
So what exactly is self-care? The term self-care gets thrown around a lot, and is often misused. We all talk about the importance of taking care of ourselves, and the media does a great job trying to sell us things and new concepts about the “best way” to take of ourselves, such as new diets, exercise equipment, or beauty products. As a therapist, I sometimes I hear clients say, “I don’t have enough money to get a massage, go to the salon, or get coffee with a friend.” Your self-care regiment doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. It could be going for a walk by yourself, meditating, taking up a new hobby, or positive self-talk. To sum it up, self-care is the practice of being kind and compassionate to yourself, with the goal of improving your emotional, mental, and physical well-being. I find that even though there is lot of information about self-care, many people struggle to engage in it. Moreover, I find that one of the biggest barriers to value, appreciate, and engage in self-care is the lack of self-esteem.
Barriers to Self-Care
When I ask my clients how they are taking care of themselves, I hear things like “I try to, but…”, “I can’t because…” or “it’s tough with the kids.” I get it. I know how hard it can be to prioritize self-care when we have such busy schedules and are care givers. I play many roles in my life, too, and know how hectic and difficult it can be to take some “me time” when we have so many responsibilities in our lives. I know the whole idea of self-care can trigger thoughts and feelings that make us feel uncomfortable. You may be thinking, “I shouldn’t be doing this now, I can do it later when I finish this or that.” Or you might think that when you set time aside for self-care that we are being lazy, weak, or. ungrateful. Or maybe that we are not doing what we are supposed to be doing because we don’t want to come across as a bad mom, daughter, husband, wife, coworker, etc.
All of those thoughts and feelings are valid but do not honor who you are and how much you are worth. You see, self-worth and self-esteem plays a big role in everything we do – who we date, how we manage conflict, how we express affection, how we express our needs and wants, and how we take care of ourselves and prioritize our own emotional well-being.
You Can’t Practice Self-Care Without Self-Esteem
When we give ourselves the opportunity to engage in self-care, we learn how much we are worth, how much we do, and how much we grow from both difficult and joyful moments in our life. However, it is not an easy or fast process because it demands lots of compassion for ourselves. This process begins with developing a healthy self-esteem and learning to love yourself. I am here to help you break the cycle of feeling guilty, overwhelmed, stuck, or lost and always doing things for others, but never doing things for yourself.
As we grow up we develop self-esteem, but sometimes if we grow up without unconditional love, with parents who aren’t affectionate, around domestic violence, or not being praised, we don’t develop a healthy sense of self-esteem. Some people develop self-esteem based on what they see their parents doing, so they mimic those attitudes and feelings of self-worth like a cookie cutter, especially when it comes to couples and parents. You may be thinking, “My mother told me that the wife has to make the relationship work,” “It’s my job to fix things and be the caregiver,” or that you have to manage the household and everyone’s schedules. That’s a lot of pressure for one person to bear, but very common beliefs among wives and mothers. If you are the primary caregiver for your relationship and family, it doesn’t leave much time for you to appreciate yourself. When you put everyone and everything else before your own needs, your emotional health deteriorates, and your ability to care for other diminishes. If you put yourself first and tend to your emotional and physical well-being, you’ll be able to care for others better.
I’ve been doing self-care work myself, and there are definitely positive changes, but it can also cause a lot of stress. With your daily routine, your role as a caregiver, job loss, or other life changes, it’s easy to lose track of our self-care and self-worth. It’s during these challenging times that we need to increase self-care, but if we don’t have self-esteem, we don’t think we deserve the validation or self-love. We don’t say no to people who ask too much of us, we act as a care giver rather than an equal (particularly in marriage), and don’t give enough to ourselves. If you don’t think you are worthy and have low self-esteem, why would you be worthy of self-love and self-care? We only take care of things that have value to us. We nurture things we love, but unfortunately so many of us don’t love ourselves fully and deeply, so we don’t spend the time or effort to nurture ourselves. It doesn’t matter how much you meditate, change your diet, go to yoga, or get massages. If you don’t believe in yourself, it doesn’t work. First fix your self-esteem, then you’ll make time for and benefit from self-care.
How to Develop Self-Esteem
If we don’t take time to think about what we do on a day-to-day basis, then there’s no time to appreciate our hard work, and love ourselves for it. Unfortunately, there’s no magic or overnight cure for low-self esteem, but there are ways we can improve it and begin to value and love ourselves for who we are.
- Write it down: Every day write down one thing you like about yourself. In my practice I have seen a lot of clients struggle with this. They think about what needs to be done, what they need to do for others, their routine, what could be better, etc. But after some time of practicing this – writing down things you like about yourself – I notice they start to appreciate themselves more. All it takes is one sentence once a day to begin to improve your self-esteem. As a therapist, it is important to believe in what I tell my clients, so I also practice journaling and writing down things I like and appreciate about myself. Over time I noticed my own self-esteem improving, and it became easier and easier to like and appreciate myself and all that I do.
- Keep your feelings in mind: Eventually I started writing two or three things a day I like about myself, and began to include writing about feelings that go with it. It’s very powerful, and helped me realize that I deserve love and time for self-care.
It’s not easy to develop self-esteem, even if you work on it every day. If you are struggling with low-self esteem, depression, or relationship issues, I am here to help. I offer counseling in Palm Beach Gardens, FL for individuals and couples who are looking to heal and move forward with their lives. Contact me today for a free 30 minute consultation and begin your journey of change and positivity.