When I see a picture of myself from about 2002 to 2012, I cringe.
My dull eyes are framed by dark, purplish circles. My hair is frizzed and my roots are grown way out. I’m overweight. My expressions are…lifeless.
What I really see, however, is someone who was hustling her ass off to take care of everyone and everything around her.
Someone who isn’t getting much sleep because she wakes up early to toss some peanut butter toast on the table and herd everyone in the car to get to school—hopefully on time and with lunches and backpacks. The photos show the dark circles.
I see someone who tells herself that she doesn’t have time to exercise or to bother with what she eats or to even take a couple hours every three months to get her hair done. What’s captured in those photos are the frizz, roots and chub.
Running a business and raising two kids on my own didn’t give me anytime to even think about taking care of myself.
I had people to take care of and shit to get done. That’s just how it was.
At least that’s what I was telling myself
I functioned like that for years and years. Until I physically couldn’t anymore.
Until my body responded with the bitch slap that woke me up, also known as cancer.
I quickly and soberly learned that one tiny thing that happy women do differently.
Ok, so what is it?
Happy women don’t put themselves last.
Wait a sec!
Before you roll those pretty eyes and start thinking, “Yeah, yeah, Sara. Blah Blah. Whatever. Heard this happy horseshit before. Sounds good in theory, but…”
If you think that the rest of this post is going to be me recommending that you just take a long, quiet, luxurious bubble bath with a glass of chardonnay, lavender-scented candles lining the tub and some Enya music, you’re fucking mistaken.
It’s Time to Get Over the Guilt
I’m also not going to suggest that you exclaim “SCREW IT” to your responsibilities and your family, throw your newly-manicured hands in the air and immediately morph into a self-indulgent asshole either.
It’s possible to take care of yourself AND be a good caregiver for all those people and things in your life that are important. I pinky promise.
In fact, doesn’t it make sense that if you were more energetic that you could actually do a BETTER job loving those around you?
Doesn’t it make sense that if you were less resentful that you could actually enjoy the little moments a little bit more instead of feeling like a petty nitpicker?
Doesn’t it make sense that you would be much more fun to be around if you didn’t suck the playfulness out of the room and if everyone didn’t have to walk on eggshells around you?
Put Yourself Forward
If it feels shitty for you to say that you’re putting yourself first, I get it. That’s exactly why I said: “Happy women don’t put themselves last.”
That means, from time to time, put more of a priority and some importance on your needs and wants.
Maybe it means getting a haircut yourself before the dog gets groomed.
Or that you read self-development book for 15 minutes each evening instead of trying to replicate crafts from Pinterest that nobody in your family really gives a shit about anyway.
Perhaps it means spending money on a massage for yourself instead of your little cutie Madison getting her fifth Disney princess outfit.
I’m not suggesting that you put yourself forward all the time.
We both know that’s not a reality unless you’re Mariah Carey and who wants to be that boobyliscious, hot mess in a skin-tight, rhinestone bodysuit anyway?
That would be selfish and that’s not you. Something that makes you awesome is that you genuinely and deeply care for people. We all love that about you.
Let’s Reframe Self Love
You can take care of and love others AND you can take care of and love you.
There is no OR in that equation. It’s an AND.
You don’t have to pick one or the other.
In fact, picking everyone else over you all the time erodes away your spirit that everyone loves so much and makes you an exhausted, bitter shell of your true self.
Taking care of life is a 24×7 job. Why make it harder by going through it tired, uninspired and resentful?
You are not going to get a goddamn crown and a standing ovation at the dinner table for doing it all yourself.
So What Am I Recommending?
While spa days and baths are awesome, they’re a little blip in time and won’t help you to be happy every day. Plus I know that you are so wound up that you may not even be able to relax and enjoy your pampering when it happens. So I’m taking a different approach here.
They’re not your typical self care recommendations.
I’m going to keep it really simple here and implore you not to overcomplicate it. Yes these are simple, but they’re hella powerful when you can make these shifts in your life.
THINK & TALK POSITIVELY. Stop talking about how little sleep you get or how stressed you are. Stop shit talking yourself about your body. Stop negatively criticizing yourself as a mom. That negativity creates more negativity for you and everyone around you.
Start with just a single day and do your best to think and talk positively. Catch yourself when talking smack and just don’t do it. It’s truly better to just shut your mouth instead of complaining or saying something negative.
FUN TIMES. Choose a little free and fun time instead of making every minute about executing the logistics of your life.
Nobody will lose an eye if you played a game or went for a walk in the evening instead of making your own spaghetti sauce from organic tomatoes that you grew in the backyard.
Choose fun and playtime!
SAY NO. Stop say “yes” and then being pissy about it. Seriously. I know you do this. You feel obligated and like you “SHOULD.”
STOP IT. What can you say no to? Listen to your heart and gut. You know what stuff makes you feel ick. Get that outta your life. It’s ok to say no.
ACCEPT HELP. Accept help when anyone offers. I’ll come and personally bitch slap you if you say, “No, it’s ok” the next time someone offers you help.
Let’s call this what it is: control freak behavior. That, my friend, does not serve you and it makes you feel resentful when you choose to do it all. See what I did there: called you out on your shit. You don’t HAVE to do it all. You are CHOOSING to.
It’s time to get over the control freak behavior. Nobody, but you, is going to lose an eye if the dishes are put away slightly differently than you would put them away. The benefit of having help is much better than everything being your way. Believe me. I learned this the hard way.
LET IT GO. Let go of trying to do everything at a super high level. It’s ok if the cleaning supplies aren’t organized and if you buy almond milk instead of making it at home. Give yourself some grace. It’s ok!
It’s a Process and You Need Encouragement
It’s a process to create a self love practice and to start feeling more vibrant and content.
You’ve operated at little-to-no self-care for years and making a change may take some adjustment.
Or not. Be open to that miracle, too.
I immediately felt so good doing the self-care activities that I was all in. There was no way I was going back to the way I was operating before and feeling like nothing was never enough.
I also put myself in situations where other people were on the same journey as me so we could support each other. For me it was getting plugged into a yoga community and getting to know the people at my juice bar.
If you are looking for a group, I would love to invite you to join us in the Beautiful Life Community.
It was also accepting and asking my loved ones for help more often than I was used to.
Whatever your experience, a big piece of self love is being graceful and compassionate with yourself. Shitty self talk and being hard on yourself isn’t loving at all. So go easy.