I just had a session with a client who started by telling me she had just woken up from a midday nap. She’s rightfully absorbing the last few days of being on her own schedule, before starting a new high profile, high stress job.
“Oh how amazing!” I reflected back to her, noticing my own envy at the thought of a nap.
“I know, it’s so self indulgent,” she quickly followed in a self-critical tone.
Wait, what? She went from a moment of real self-care, allowing her body to recognize what it needed, and giving it just that, to a biting criticism of herself.
Sound familiar? Maybe you let yourself briefly experience the pleasure of a day off, a decadent dessert, a promotion or raise. Then just as quickly as you enjoyed it, you subconsciously follow it with self criticism, which knocks the joy down a notch. As in…
–> (after the day off…) Now I’ll need to work late tomorrow!
–> (after the dessert…) I shouldn’t have eaten that, I need to lose 5 pounds.
–> (after the promotion…) I’ll have to work even harder now to prove I’m worth the raise.
Why can’t we let ourselves fully bask in the pleasure of the moment? Why do we so quickly steal our own joy away? We have our “inner critic” to thank for that.
The words we chose when we speak to ourselves make a huge difference in how we feel moment to moment.
Calling something self-indulgent, which is: “characterized by doing exactly what one wants, especially when this involves pleasure or idleness,” conveys one thing to your psyche. On the other hand, calling something self-care, which is “any activity that you do voluntarily which helps you maintain your physical, mental or emotional health,” conveys another thing all together.
After self-care I feel healthy, recharged and ready to take on my work and responsibilities. After self-indulgence, I am more likely to feel guilty, like I need to work hard to pay it back somehow.
Most of us have a voice in our heads that tries to sabotage the moment. It tells you that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, hard working enough, pretty enough. Or that it HAS to be this way, should be that way, shouldn’t be this way…It’s exhausting and always talking to us, though each of us has it’s own flavor of commentary.
Identifying this voice and just noticing what it says to you, and how you feel when you listen to it, is the first step to changing your own critical self-talk.
Bring your awareness to this voice and try to be mindful of the words you chose when you speak to yourself. When you notice you’re feeling crummy, rewind the tapes. Ask what you just said to yourself, and try to soften the words with kindness.
You are allowed to feel healthy, relaxed, calm, joyful, proud, and you don’t need to feel bad about it or make up for it later. Self-care is actually a bare-minimum, a must-have so you can successfully do the work you are here to do.
Please make time for some exquisite self-care today, and let yourself feel truly great about it.