Why is it so hard to be kind to ourselves unless we’re ill? I woke up this morning full of cold with a sore, stiff neck. It seems the Universe has been listening.
Not long ago I was grumbling about the heat and wondering when autumn would finally arrive so I could wear socks, drink hot chocolate without having to justify it, curl up with a book for no reason other than, just because, and sit on the sofa with a suitably dark and spooky playlist.
So here I am on the sofa, typing, still in my pyjamas with the addition of a box of tissues, a jumper and socks. And yes my music is beautifully dark and depressing this morning!
Yesterday we went to the hospital and it was 6 degrees outside as we made our way at 7 am. It’s never this cold this early and while we only put the fire on at Halloween for my birthday, I’ve a feeling that we will be lighting it out of necessity rather than enjoyment, and most likely before Halloween too.
Why do we resist things that bring us joy?
As I sit here with my tissues and socks, having stayed in bed until 7.30 this morning something I never do, I am thinking about why we resist doing the things that bring us joy. Why is it so hard to be kind to ourselves? I know, I know, it’s a topic that is talked about a lot. I mention it at least once in every session with my clients and I wonder why, for me and for so many women I speak to, is doing the things we want to do, and love to do seen as something of an indulgence, rather than our God-given right?
Why does it take a rock bottom or the most awful hangover, burnout from work, or having the flu or waking up stiff to listen to our bodies (and hearts) and slow down, look after ourselves and give ourselves permission to do the things that we love? Why is it so hard to be kind to ourselves?
Why is it only okay to sit and read or draw or bake, go for a blustery walk, go to bed early, or wear that special top when we want to feel better? Why did it take my husband to have a stroke for us to look at our habits, food choices, and work mindset, and start to prioritise doing activities that bring us joy like hiking and camping?
The black sheep
I like to think I’m a pretty self aware person. At 27 I came to hilly billy rural Spain to live in a cave because things weren’t making me feel good at home and I wanted something better for Josh our eldest who was two at the time. Well, you can imagine how that went down!
I’m used to being the ‘black sheep’ and doing things ‘wrong’ as my Dad and Step-Mother reminded me many times before I stopped contact.
I also know I feel better after a coffee with a friend. I know I am more energised if I spend a Saturday climbing over rocks and on hiking trails. I know that Yoga on a Wednesday morning or spending the first silent moments of the morning in meditation or with my journal make me feel so good yet for the longest time, I never did any of it.
Preferring to do what everyone around me was doing, or expected me to do. It was easier to fit in and say yes rather than face the stern looks or questioning eyebrows, so I would bend and do the thing that made the other person feel better to the detriment of my own joy and peace. I coped with it by drinking, of course.
It’s not okay to bend and squash and swallow
Why is it so hard to be kind to ourselves? Why is it so hard for us to do what our heart desires, whether in the moment or as a life choice? Why can’t we take a break, slow down, go to bed early, or go for a walk without justifying, asking permission, or explaining ourselves? Why can’t we take up rally driving or stamp collecting, why can’t we live in a van, quit drinking, stop dying our hair, or join a marching band without justifying, asking permission, or explaining ourselves?
Why did I struggle so much to make a healthy snack for myself when I went out of the way to make sure my kids were getting the right balance of nutrients? Why was it okay for me to squash down my feelings, blink back the tears, swallow the lump in my throat and keep going?
Why did I not feel like I deserved to stay in bed on a Sunday and read? If I was ill (read hungover) then staying in bed was fine, required even, but staying in bed to read when you feel perfectly fine, who does that?
Why did I keep pushing through, over and over for years and years numbing out with wine, giving all of myself to others, putting on a brave face, and pretending that everything was just fine?
I really cannot answer that question with a specific reason. All I know is that I’m not the only one. Maybe it’s society, upbringing, culture, beliefs, ambition, expectation, fear, guilt, or all of them thrown together in a swirling, bubbling soup of mixed-up emotions and beliefs that make us put ourselves down, beat ourselves up, and look for the quick and easy fix to hide from our true selves, to numb out and to put on a brave face.
A midlife crisis?
This post and the previous post might make you think I’m a miserable cow! Really, I’m not, honestly! I think that I am just beginning to realise how little I have really cared for myself in the past, or rather I was caring for myself in the only way I knew how which actually wasn’t really serving me.
Wine is not self-care, neither is beer, neither is putting yourself last, soldiering on, not asking for what you need, and filling up the emptiness with ‘stuff’. And, while I’m here I just want to say that quitting drinking might seem like such a hard thing to do, but really, it is the kindest thing we can do.
I am so incredibly grateful for my sobriety right now because that’s the thing that got me through when my husband went into hospital, that’s the thing that always gets me through any difficult time in my life and it’s also the thing that allows me to experience joy on the deepest level and give me the clarity I need when I’m experiencing a bit of a wobble, as I have been.
Have I been having a midlife crisis? Maybe. But, there comes a point in our lives when we say, no more and choose ourselves, finally.
Don’t wait for your own adventure
So, buy yourself the flowers I say, wear perfume to bed if it makes you feel good. Take a walk along the beach when you ‘should’ be food shopping.
If I wait for other people to be available for adventures, I’ll be waiting a long time.
Take the pole dancing class, wear socks with stars on them, get a tattoo, learn Tarot, do a poetry course, join a choir, or learn how to sail a boat.
Give yourself permission to do the small things that make a big difference to your health and happiness every single day. You are deserving, you are worthy. You don’t need anyone else’s permission or approval.
A wonderful friend of mine told me why she travelled so much alone, ‘if I wait for other people to be available for adventures, I’ll be waiting a long time.’
Please don’t wait for your own adventure. Don’t wait until you think you’ve earned enough respect, saved enough money, ticked enough boxes, or jumped through enough hoops.
Don’t wait until you ‘really need it’ or feel you’re deserving or worthy before you put yourself first and ask for help or have fun. Life is short, life is precious. Be the black sheep and in the words of American rapper Asher Roth:
“Do your thing, do it unapologetically. Don’t be discouraged by criticism. You probably already know what they’re going to say. Pay no mind to the fear of failure. It’s far more valuable than success. Take ownership, take chances, and have fun. And no matter what don’t ever stop doing your thing.”
I hope this post has inspired you to stop waiting to do what brings you joy. Don’t wait to do what you love. Go create, have fun and be your wonderful self!