“Because we haven’t been taught to appreciate and love ourselves, we don’t feel like we deserve self-care and pleasure. Instead we cling to our to-do lists and sacrifice our health and well-being for the sake of others. Then, when we feel deprived of our basic human need for relaxation and enjoyment, we turn to food as our sole source of pleasure. When we then try to deprive ourselves of food through dieting, we deny the last bit of pleasure we have in our lives. And that never works!”
—Jessica Ortner, The Tapping Solution
Each February 14th we celebrate Valentine's Day - a day when we express our love and appreciation to the people we care about. What is little known is that the day before, February 13th, is the International Day of Self Love - a day to express that same love and appreciation to ourselves first!
As a society, we have been trained to give to or take care of others before ourselves. If we think of putting ourselves first, we often think we are being selfish. The fact is that we can’t give to others in a healthy sustainable way until we first meet our own needs.
When we were growing up, many of us didn’t receive the nurturing that we needed - healthy touch, empathy, time and attention, validation, respect, understanding, praise, acknowledgement, freedom — all the things we require to grow up mentally and emotionally healthy. What we received or didn’t receive from our parents is what we learned to give ourselves. So if we didn’t receive nurturing, we did not learn to give it to ourselves. As a result, many of us feel guilty about taking time for ourselves. We feel guilty because we don't understand the difference between self care/self nurturing and self indulgence.
Activities of self care are ones that nourish and replenish the body, mind, and spirit. Examples include meditation, exercise, adequate rest, eating healthy foods, journaling, taking a bath, getting a massage, dancing, spending time in nature, etc. These are both physically and psychologically healthy and will create more happiness and overall well-being.
Activities of self indulgence are ones that give pleasure up front but leave a price to pay later. Examples are compulsions or addictions like drugs and alcohol, binge eating, shopping, gambling, physically dangerous sports, or other harmful behaviors.
It's interesting that we, as a society, have been taught to feel guilty with the idea and practice of self love and self care - which usually then LEADS to self indulgence! This is an especially important concept if we want to sustain healthy eating choices. In my blog, Why You Can't Rely On Willpower To Eat Healthy, one of the points I talk about is that self care is what replenishes our willpower.
Personally, as a massage therapist for the past 30 years, working with nutrition and spiritual counseling clients, helping to care for my 95 year old mother, and caring for my son after THREE major motorcycle accidents, I have learned how VERY important this is. I also spend a LOT of time working at the computer, and I am really clear that it is one of the most addictive and depleting activities I’ve ever experienced.
It’s SO easy to completely abandon self care when we are outwardly focused — not even stopping to stretch or eat — and then that can really lead to trouble in all areas of our lives. And, while I take pretty darn good care of myself for the most part, it's always good to revisit this important topic and make some appropriate course corrections...AGAIN!
Here's an example of my current self care routine:
- Daily: stretching, meditation, walking or dancing, eating healthy organic food, gratitude journal, adequate sleep
- Weekly: gentle yoga
- Bi-weekly: hike in nature
- Monthly: chiropractic, massage, & acupuncture as needed.
Self care is not self indulgence — self care is self respect!
So as you begin to make plans for this Valentine's Day, be sure to remember to include yourself in the list of people to shower with love!
Happy, Healthy Living!
JoAnn Newton is a Master Massage Therapist, Certified Diet Counselor & Holistic Nutrition Educator, and Spiritual Counselor who is committed to creating, living, and enjoying health, balance, and freedom on all levels, both personally and professionally, while providing educational and healing services.