On Fear, Failure, and Self-Care

21 July 2016

My thoughts on this are pretty muddled, but if I wait for them to clarify I won't hit publish on this post until 2017, and in the interest of not going even longer without a blog post here goes nothing.

I've always equated self-care with treating myself.

Perhaps I'm the only person in the world with this misconception and thus this little piece of writing is pointless, but maybe some of you are like me.

Maybe some of you say the words self-care and you conjure up images of tea lights illuminating a bathtub full of rose petals. Maybe you think a book in a comfy chair. Maybe wine and chocolate or my newest weakness Glutino Yogurt Pretzels. 

I had a really hard time after my third baby was born. Really hard. He's ten months old now, and I'm mostly out of the proverbial woods, but I can still see them in my rearview, and sometimes they're closer than they appear. (#pun #set #spike) 

I've learned that self-care is much better understood as: doing the hard but necessary things for myself. I'm talking things like going to the dentist or the dermatologist. Making my bed. Exercising. And on particularly hard days: eating.

Self-care is tricky for me because I'm largely externally motivated (Thank You, Gretchen) - I do great when someone dangles the proverbial carrot, but not so great when I need to make a change for myself.

This is too bad. Really really too bad. I've thought a lot about what it means to be externally motivated, and I've found that at least for me it's closely linked to my fear of failure.

FAILURE is my self-elected word for 2016.

Halfway through the year and I'm no more comfortable with failure, but I'm committed to thinking about my failures as learning opportunities. (Thank you, Carol.)
For me, failure has a lot to do with how people perceive me. I HATE letting people down. This fear of letting people down has driven so many of my childhood and adult decisions. Only now am I beginning to let go of my people-pleasing obsession, because mama just can't anymore.

Here's the kicker: the only place that I've been OK with failure is when I let myself down. If I'm the only person affected by my failure, if I'm the only person I'm letting down, then nobody sees the failure and the failure doesn't count.

Because I don't count.

I tend to live a narrative that is simultaneously self-obsessed (what must they think of me??) and self-neglectful (you're only letting yourself down and that's ok).

People talk about self-worth, and I always thought I had plenty of it, but the honest truth is that I don't always live like it. I thought I could confidently say the words "I am enough," (Thank you, Brene), but I don't live like I am enough.

So I've turned myself into a third person, and for the time being it seems to be working. I'm constantly repeating mantras. Things like:

You're a person too.

Someone needs to take care of your children's mother.

Don't confuse self-sacrifice with self-neglect.

I've been working on this. I've been taking time for myself: I'm making sure I get myself fed and showered. I'm making it a priority to exercise and hydrate. I'm getting up early. I'm even taking time to pursue meaningful hobbies - even when that means I have to pay or obligate someone to watch my kids.

I'm realizing just how hard self-care is.
I'm seeing the effects of taking better care of myself. It's not all roses, but I'm having glimpses. I'm having moments when I'm with my kids and I'm simply with them. I see how beautiful they are, and I just sit with that reality: I'm not itching to tackle eight things on my to do list or counting down the seconds till naps.

It feels good.
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