In today’s world, we wear being busy as a badge of honour. When asked how you’re doing, the chances are your response is usually along the lines of ‘Not bad, busy as always!’. It would feel pretentious to say ‘Well actually I have been pampering myself all morning and now I feel wonderful!’.
But if we don’t look after ourselves first, how can we show up for others when they need us to look after them? How can we expect our kids to learn that sitting quietly for half an hour is less of a punishment and more of a way to calm our brain?
Both my mother and my grandmother would never dream of leaving the house without their hair and makeup being done, clothes ironed and shoes cleaned. For them a hairdresser appointment is as important as a dentist appointment, it’s a necessary part of their life and one that they thoroughly enjoy (more so than the dentist anyway!).
However, I’m the opposite! I go to the hairdresser once a year…it feels like such a huge extravagance when I know the kids need new clothes or there’s a birthday coming up! Getting ready in the morning comprises of little more than putting some clothes on and running a brush through my hair…there’s always so much to get done around the house, I feel it would take time that would be better spent catching up on laundry!
There’s no shame in looking after ourselves. It doesn’t make us vain if we spend time making ourselves look more presentable in order to feel more confident. We’re not being lazy if we choose to read a book in the garden with a cup of tea, rather than sweep and mop floors which, no doubt, will be as filthy again by tomorrow! Yet, society has been programmed to make us feel like if we’re not busy doing, then we’re busy doing nothing.
The ancient Greek philosopher, Hippocrates, proposed that “the way to health is to have an aromatic bath and scented massage every day.” For the Greeks a beautiful body was considered direct evidence of a beautiful mind. They even had a word for it - kaloskagathos - which meant being gorgeous to look at, and hence being a good person!
Now, I’m not saying that physical beauty and pampering is the be-all and end-all, but my point is that looking after ourselves isn’t a 20th century invention! And self-care doesn’t have to be about physical care, it’s also about mental care. Taking the time we need to clear our thoughts, living the sort of life we actually want rather than the one we feel we should. Accepting help when we need it, and knowing when we just need some time alone.
My 7 year old made me stop and think recently when she commented on the fact that I looked tired and should go lie down. My immediate feeling was defensiveness…in fact I snapped at her, saying something about ‘dinner isn’t going to cook itself’. But, seeing the hurt look on her face, I realised that I had just taught her that not only is caring abut her mother a bad thing to do, but also that being busy and getting ‘stuff done’ is more important than looking after ourselves.
Instead I could have thanked her, calmly told everyone that dinner would be a bit later, and that I was going to lie down for 30 minutes. The world wouldn’t have ended, if they were hungry enough they would have fed themselves, and I would have given myself the rest I needed to continue my day without feeling impatient and cranky!
Looking after ourselves shouldn’t be something we have to learn, we know it instinctively from birth, but it is driven out of us as we grow up, stemming from a fear of being mistaken for idleness. So, I’m taking the time over the next few months to re-discover my inner child, to re-learn the skills I need to be the best version of myself, and to encourage my kids to do the same…I hope you’ll join me too!
If you're interested in including more self-care in your life, check out my set of 30 self-care prompt cards