Many of us have taken on board messages in our lifetime that tell us that taking care of our own needs is selfish and lazy. This informs our own inner-critic who can be harsh. We will often mentally beat ourselves up for things like: not getting enough done, not being like others, saying “no” when we need to, taking a break or doing something we enjoy, or for not being ‘perfect’.
It is now recognised that when we don’t pay attention to our own self-care, we can become burned out, overwhelmed and anxious. Thankfully, this means that we are beginning to realise the importance of self-care, however, many of us struggle with actually allowing ourselves to ‘self-care’.
In order to allow ourselves to take care of our needs, and find the right balance for us, we need to give ourselves some permissions. If we don’t do this, the harsh inner-critic will continue to punish us. There are many permissions that we can give ourselves and this article covers 5 of the top permissions to enable us to nurture ourselves a little better.
Are you a slave to your to-do list? Are you working longer hours and / or neglecting yourself in order to achieve the impossible? We all know that the to-do list never ends; as we tick off items, more will appear and it can seem that time becomes our enemy. Before we know it, we’re putting more hours into getting things done and allowing less time for ourselves and our loved ones. Life becomes unbalanced and we can go into overwhelm.
Once we realise that the to-do list is a continuous work in progress and we can accept that we are not going to get to the bottom of it every day, no matter how hard we work. We can make a deal with ourselves to do what we can, in the time that we have and know that this is good enough.
Are you a victim of your own pattern of compare-and-despair? Does comparing yourself with others prevent you from celebrating your own achievements? Does it stop you from even trying in the first place? Well, you’re not alone! This is our inner-critic talking. The inner critic, if in charge, will convince us that we are less than; that we are not GOOD ENOUGH; that we have nothing to contribute; that we will fail.
Once we realise that we are unique, with our own talents and qualities, on our own journey, we can stop comparing ourselves to others, who too are on their own journeys. So, when you catch yourself comparing and despairing, ask yourself, “Where does this come from? Who’s in the driving seat here, my inner champion or my inner critic?” Re-frame the achievements of others as inspirational, rather than evidence to support the inner critic’s confidence-zapping comparing. Once we fully understand that we are on our own unique journey, we can start to appreciate our own gifts and be glad to be ourselves.
Do you find yourself often saying “yes” when you really want to say “no”? Does over adapting to the wishes and wants of others often leave you secretly feeling resentful? Well, this is more common than you might think. Many of us find ourselves trying to please others to the detriment of our own needs. It is okay to help others, but if the balance is constantly tipped towards pleasing others, we end up missing ourselves. Also common is attempting the unrealistic challenge of trying to please everyone.
Once we realise that a) constantly saying “yes” when we want or need to say “no” is not good for our mental health, and b) it is impossible to please everyone, we can start to think about creating some healthy boundaries. Boundaries are important in helping us to find balance between taking care of our own needs and the needs of and commitment to others. Ask yourself, “How much of myself am I comfortable with giving, without diminishing my own needs?”
This permission comes with a warning: when people are used to you saying “yes” all the time, many will be disappointed or even persist in breaching your new boundaries. This will feel difficult and uncomfortable. Saying “no” can be guilt-triggering for those of us who need this permission the most. The guilt comes from our old enemy, our inner-critic. You don’t have to listen to it – remind yourself that you have needs and deserve to be happy. Also know that in not being able to please everyone, someone will wind up being disappointed. That cannot be avoided, and accepting this will help to kick that inner-critic into touch!
Do you struggle to give yourself a break when you have things to do? Do you feel that you need to get to the bottom of your to-do list before you can relax or have fun? Is there a rule in your head that tells you that taking time out would mean that you’re lazy, unproductive, or even selfish? When this is the case, it’s easy to work out that our inner-critic is at it again! We’ve already established that to-do lists are a continuous work in progress, so the idea that we can have a break / fun when x, y and z is done, will often result in us not taking that break that we so desperately need. Yes, some tasks come with a deadline, but did you know that research shows that we can become less productive when we don’t take breaks, and even less so when we are trying to multi-task? This is because when we don’t take time out to recharge, we begin to run on empty and find it difficult to concentrate, often resulting in making mistakes. Running on empty is bad for our own wellbeing.
Once we realise that not taking breaks is bad for our wellbeing and also makes us less productive, we can give ourselves the permission to self care, no matter where on the list / project or assignment / housework chores we find ourselves. The Pomodoro technique is widely used to help people to focus on tasks for blocks of time and take timed breaks. There are many Pomodoro apps out there if you want to give it a try. Getting some fresh air, getting up and moving, stretching, going for a run, or doing something else that you find fun, are examples of ways in which you can switch off and plug yourself in for a recharge before continuing with what you want to get done.
Do you set yourself unrealistically high standards with no margin for error? Do you mentally beat yourself up when you make a mistake? Does this sometimes prevent you from trying something in the first place? The delusion of aiming for perfectionism is one of the top anxiety-triggering, confidence destroying weapons in the inner-critic’s armoury!
Sometimes, we don’t have the time needed to do a ‘perfect’ job and need to settle for GOOD ENOUGH. As humans, making mistakes and not getting things right first time is how we learn, develop and grow. When a toddler is learning to walk on unsteady, uncoordinated legs, they will fall umpteen times whilst practicing and attempting to master this skill. They may show signs of frustration at times, but they don’t beat themselves up and eventually, they begin to walk with more confidence.
Once we realise that ‘being perfect’ is unrealistic and accept that we will inevitably make mistakes, we can put down that stick that we beat ourselves with. We can know that no one, including ourselves, is perfect, but that we are GOOD ENOUGH, and that is okay.
We are human, we are perfectly imperfect and learn, develop and grow through making mistakes. We only have so much time in which to ‘get things done’. We are not robots, we need to take breaks and recharge. We have our own needs and wants and cannot please everyone, all of the time.
So, what permissions are you going to give yourself from now on, to make sure that you get the self care that you need and truly deserve? What messages from your inner-critic are you going to challenge? What healthy boundaries are going to help you to take care of you, and how are you going to assert them?