You know what one of the hardest parts about self care is? It’s actually focusing on yourself. Just focusing on you for the sake of helping you. Some many other things come into play in life that somehow even when you’re focusing on you it’s not exactly about you.
Let’s think about exercising and getting in shape for a moment. You decide you want to get in shape. You join the gym, you work out every day. How many times, though, do you think, “If I get in shape, maybe I’ll catch the hot guy’s attention?” Or you want the people at your class reunion to compliment you on how great you look.
And there is absolutely nothing wrong with those things. When someone is sincere and says nice things about you, it feels nice. We all seek that from time to time, but self-care should be more than that. Focusing solely on you, however, is kind of difficult. Or at least for me it is. Maybe others don’t have this problem.
The tricky part is letting go of expectations. Letting go of that feeling of “If I do this, then that will happen.” You’re still taking care of yourself, but your intention is somewhere else. That’s not cool in the long run. What if that thing never happens? Will you keep taking care of yourself? What happens if that expectation isn’t met?
Letting go is hard. Focusing on you for the sake of you is also hard. Once you learn how to do it, though, it is so worth it. I still struggle with it myself. I’m just telling the truth here. But that is now part of my self-care routine — making sure I let go of those expectations and focus on doing it for me.
I wish I could say I have discovered some great pathway to focusing on yourself. Loving yourself enough to take care of you just for you and your happiness. I haven’t. You just have to keep working on it, and it gets easier.
The only trick I can give you is that you have to be conscious of it. Be aware of what you do and why you do it. When you start to think about losing weight for the hot guy, notice that you’re thinking it and then try to refocus your thinking toward you.
It sounds simple in some ways, but it’s more difficult than it appears. Consciousness helps. Meditation helps you be more conscious. Journaling helps to be more conscious. Yoga helps to be more conscious.
The more conscious you become the more you learn to focus on you – or at least become aware of those expectations and then refocus. So meditation, journaling, yoga, they have benefits on their own, but the more you add to your self-care arsenal the better you become at caring for and loving yourself. Because every little thing you do adds up to being more conscious about you.
I once hated to exercise. Hated it with a white hot passion. For most of my life, I didn’t really have to exercise to stay at a relatively healthy weight. I’ve had a couple of times where I gained weight and began to exercise to lose it.
Some of that was rightly focused on wanting to be healthier, but a lot of it was wanting men to find me attractive, wanting to fit into society’s idea of a good weight, and all the other insignificant reasons. It was focused on reasons outside of me rather than on me.
I didn’t stick with it, either, I might add. Once I lost the weight, I lost the exercise as well. Because the intention wasn’t directed at me.
Now, however, I truly enjoy exercising. I like seeing how hard I can push myself — some days it is much more than others but still I enjoy the challenge. I like seeing how I can change my body by trying new classes or workouts. I enjoy doing it for me and making my body stronger. I enjoy being able to pick up a niece or a friend’s child and they feel like a feather rather than fearing I’ll pull a muscle in my back.
I have become one of those people who feel guilty when they don’t exercise. And trust me, I never thought I would be one of those people. When I’m in a spin class, I don’t compete with the person next to me. In fact, I don’t even look at the others in the class most of the time. I compete with myself.
But it’s not about perfection. Never let it be about perfection. That’s one of those expectations that messes up so many people — even if your intention is in the right place, perfection simply doesn’t exist.
If there is a yin and yang, a positive and negative to everything, then perfectionism is the dark side of self-care. Or it can be. Don’t let it. This goes for any self-care activity — it’s such a slippery slope.
Whether it’s exercise or skin care or even meditation, sometimes we put unrealistic expectations on ourselves. My body should be perfect. Or I want my skin to be flawless.
Simply be conscious of these thoughts and redirect them. Say that your body is as strong or stronger than it was yesterday. Or that you’re simply maintaining your health. Even if it’s, “I wasn’t that focused during meditation today, but that’s OK. I still put the time and effort into caring for myself.” Don’t strive for perfection and don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect.
Self-care is all about being the best version of you. Not the perfect version of anything. And the best version of you is only how you define it.
So always remember, forget expectations. Your well-being is about you and nothing else. If you get compliments or even the hot guy, well that’s just icing on the cake.