Love is a connection we form with people, creatures, and objects. It’s an attachment. Often, it goes with history and a willingness to sacrifice for the object of that love. In all that connection, in all that focus on an other, we can forget to love ourselves. Self-love is just as important—and it is not inherently selfish.
I’ve seen this a lot. People who give and do and help until there isn’t anything left. We worry that if we take care of ourselves, we’re being selfish. We’re taking away from what we could offer to others. I don’t buy into that (intellectually, at least).
The system I buy into is one of needs and wants. In this system, needs are almost always above wants. Selfish, in my opinion, is when you put your wants before the needs of others. Putting your needs first is not selfish. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. Satisfying your needs improves your ability to be your best self, and your best self can better help others than the self that is malnourished, sleep-deprived, emotionally exhausted, overworked, etc. So, please take care of yourself. Here are a few examples of how to do that.
- Set a timer.
Generally speaking, prolonged sitting is not good for you, so try setting a timer for 20, 30, or 45 minutes. When that timer goes off, stand up, stretch. Go get something to drink (because hydration is also very important!). Get a snack. Go to the bathroom. And then go back to work—breaks are good for your body and for your mind.
- Be aware of how you talk about/to yourself.
This is awful – why would anyone care?
I’m just taking up space.
I’m a bother and they’re too nice to tell me to beat it.
Do you ever think like that? I do. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, I’m not going to tell you to stop—to change your attitude—to just be more positive! because I find that harmful and discouraging (sometimes, you just can’t, or you feel awful anyway).
I do advise that you be aware of this self-degrading language when you use it—be it on social media, in conversation, in thought. If you catch yourself, reconsider saying/thinking it. The more you say it on good days, the more ammunition you have on bad days. How can you adjust your phrasing to give yourself more credit?
One of my favorite examples is saying “thank you” instead of “I’m sorry.” Instead of apologizing for tardiness, thank people for their patience. Instead of apologizing for ranting, rambling, or poor quality, thank people for listening or reading. It’s difficult, especially at first, but it helps—and it can make people feel good in the process.
- Know yourself.
… and avoid triggers/toxic people.
A friend of mine does not get along with her mom. She still loves her mom, but she does her best to minimize contact with her. She knows that her mom doesn’t make her feel good.
Know who and what are not a positive force in your life. You don’t have to surround yourself with people and things that don’t make you happy. Trees drop their leaves in autumn because they don’t offer enough nutrition for what they take up. Pruning your branches is a form of self-love—you’re giving yourself the chance to heal, to grow, to live.
Know what makes you happy, and do that. Know what makes your life unnecessarily stressful and difficult (without being sufficiently rewarding)—and thinking about cutting it.
Please, travelers, take care of yourselves. Give yourself permission to be your best self this year. If you need to talk, let me know. I’m here for you. And remember: it isn’t selfish to take care of your needs.