Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I need self-care but anytime I’m not working and getting something done, all I feel is restlessness and guilt.
Can you relate?
If you’re struggling with “self-care”, you’re not alone. Our struggle with this concept is valid because self-care is a bit abstract, often misapplied, and misunderstood. The first step to stop feeling guilty about self-care is to clarify what self-care means to you. The second step, counterintuitively, is to accept that guilt comes with the package.
Self-care is a misnomer. When we say self-care, we think of solitary activities like yoga, meditation, or lone walks in the park. It’s something you do away from other people. And while distance can soothe, care is first and foremost relational. There is someone who gives and someone who receives. We learn the experience of being cared for only because we, at some point, we have had someone else care for us. Like love, this is an essential human experience. When we believe that no one cares for us and our needs aren’t important, it feels painful and lonely.
Because care is relational, the point of self-care isn’t to isolate you from people, it is to encourage you to make space for your needs inside your relationships. It’s about inviting the opportunity for other people to support you. For those of us who have lived a long time being the givers and the providers for the needs of others, it can be a hard thing to step into. You might have been let down too many times. You might not be supported in the way that you want to be supported. You might have been taught it’s selfish to think of your own needs. How dare you do something for yourself when others need you? What if the world falls apart without you at the helm of it 24/7? Self-care involves a kind of vulnerability to admit that no, you are not invincible and you do not have unlimited energy to give. Even the most productive of us get tired.
When you first begin to practice self-care, maybe it helps to anticipate and expect that guilt and restlessness will come along for the ride because they are relics of the conditioning many of us receive in the world. If we feel guilty about the idea of giving ourselves some care, this might be a good sign we are leaning against our edge. At first it won’t be comfortable but after a while and with more practice, we begin to feel more used to it. After all, if we allow others in our lives our care, why not also allow ourselves the same?