Family

Loving Yourself Takes Time

Yesterday, I saw a writing prompt from Bubble Bath Self-Empowerment that got me thinking. In fact, it prompted me to write, so it worked! The prompt was: When You Love Yourself First, Everything Else Falls Into Place.

I can remember times in my life when loving myself was way down at the bottom of my to-do list. When I started in my first full-time professional position, we had teenagers at home, and my husband and I were both commuting an hour in opposite directions. There was way too much to do and think about to be able to even contemplate loving myself first. The various responsibilities just outweighed that possibility.

woman-1733891_640

Woman, burnout from Geralt via Pixabay

From the family’s point of view, I had already put myself first by moving us all to a new location, putting the kids in new schools, and choosing to take a job a long way from my husband’s job. If loving myself first meant taking time out of our few family hours to spend alone, it wasn’t going to happen. That would have been just too selfish. I felt lucky if I could do the crossword uninterrupted on Saturday mornings.

Another time when it seemed impossible to love myself first was when my husband became terminally ill. He was sick for nearly eight years before he died and I was his primary caregiver while at the same time continuing to work. As his health declined, we had the help of home care aides who came daily for an hour, so I wasn’t entirely alone. Even so, it was exhausting and depressing and caused 24/7 stress. After our children had left home, I tried to arrange for respite care for him once a month so that I could visit them in another city, but that wasn’t always possible. Once, I was told he would have a caregiver but after I got home from the weekend away I discovered that no-one came. Experiences like that make one very reluctant to take personal time.

Pills, medicine, and vitamins

Pills, medicine, and vitamins from Franchise Opportunities via Flickr

As I think about it now, though, I really should have done more to find some emotional respite for myself. I didn’t think I had the time and I didn’t think I could afford it, but really it should have been a priority. I would have benefitted from some psychological counselling, and I would have felt nourished by attending more social functions, but I just didn’t do either of those things. I didn’t think my concerns signified much in the face of my husband’s needs, and I found it really hard to answer multiple well-meaning questions about his health. It was just easier to stay at home.

On reflection, my failure to give myself more love was a consequence of a cascade of responsibilities and expectations. It was also a result of trying to be all things to all people and trying to accomplish all things well. At the root of all this, I suppose, is the fact that I was socialized to equate self-love with selfishness, and being self-centred was a bad thing.

It has taken me a lifetime to understand that I had believed I was indispensable and that my personal house of cards would collapse without me. As much as my family needed me, they could have managed perfectly well without me for a few hours a day, or a day a week, or a weekend a month. And, although my job was important to me and very time-consuming, it would not have disappeared if I had paid it less attention.

Taking personal time out is not an abandonment of loved ones or of work responsibilities. We have to recharge our emotional batteries if we are to keep on functioning effectively. I wish I had learned that earlier, before I burned out. Now that I am retired I have a lot more time than I know what to do with, and reflecting on those times when I didn’t have enough time or energy can make me cringe. But now at least I know what to do about that; I just need to love myself, and that means forgiving myself. It may also mean a bubble bath.

18 replies »

  1. Life is short …. eat cake.

    Loving oneself is important, but I don’t recommend hugging and kissing yourself in public. Passers-by tend to give you weird looks!
    😉

  2. I love your words, so much. Thank you for these thoughts and wisdom ❤
    I think back to my years as a young parent, struggling and then raging and so clearly in need of some help. Well, I think that girl needs a hug. I've learned so much since then. It's my pleasure now to encourage my kids to take their time and just hope they learn this lesson quicker than I did.

  3. I totally relate to looking back at all the times I didn’t have time to love and take care of myself properly. I couldn’t see any other way at the time, and I still can’t see how I could have done most of it differently. But those were times I was needed as a mom, a wife, a daughter and a friend and I wouldn’t trade most of those times for anything. It was the times I was taken for granted or mistreated that if I could go back and change I would. There were times I let people walk all over me in the name of love and it did some damage. Thank-you so much for your reflections on the writing prompt, I loved reading this and hope many others will get involved to see a lot of different perspectives on the subject!

    • Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed this. I’m sure there are many of us who are, at times, stretched far too thin and can’t see how to improve our own situation. It’s only with hindsight that I can now get a glimpse of what I might have done.

      I, too, hope that others will contribute their thoughts on how to love ourselves.

  4. 100 Likes! The coolest discovery is that when we love ourselves first we actually have more, not less to give to others. There’s nothing to offer from an empty bucket. Keep that baby filled! ❤ I believe very few of us understood this until recently.

    • It seems simple, doesn’t it? But, our lives are complicated by our histories and our relationships, so it isn’t always as easy as it seems. But, in the end, we do need to take care of ourselves if we are to take care of others.

  5. Yes, yes, yes!! I believe our acculturation as females is to put others’ needs first. But it ends up being a sacrificial stance. One that I no longer find attractive.
    I am sorry for the big open spots in your life now, but if it means you write more, I like that!

    • Thanks, Lorna. I recently read an article that ties our acculturation to serve others with women’s lower incomes. It was about teachers but could apply equally well to all sorts of professional roles. We may be part of a change in that way of thinking.

      • That makes sense that it would impact our salaries. I chose a service job (social work) and didn’t even pursue the higher-paying jobs in that profession, so I can relate to the tenents of the article you referenced. I hope we ARE a part of changing that way of thinking!

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