A lot of women experience guilt around self-care. Self-care-related guilt comes in one of two forms. Some of us feel guilty when we engage in self-care. And others of us feel guilty when we’re not engaging in self-care.
Oy. We can’t win, can we?
Guilty About Self-Care
The book Burnout by sisters Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski posits that women feel guilty about engaging in self-care because of something they term “Human Giver Syndrome” – the false idea that women in particular exist primarily to serve the needs of others. When women take care of themselves, they feel guilty because doing so means they aren’t tending to the needs of others.
On the flip side, sometimes women feel guilty about self-care because they aren’t doing it. Have you ever thought, “I really should be exercising,” or eating healthier or taking time out for myself or…fill in the blank? As a society, we do a better job of calling out the need for self-care than we once did. But if self-care becomes just one more chore to check off our list, we’re missing the point.
Self-care exists to serve you—not the other way around!
A Mindset Shift to Alleviate Guilt About Self-Care
When we feel guilty about self-care, it stops us from experiencing the full benefits of those activities! So how do we drop the guilt? It comes down to a mindset shift.
If you feel guilty when you take time for yourself, how can you shift your mindset to think differently? Think of yourself like a car. If you want your car to perform its function of getting you from place to place, you must take care of it, right? Specifically, you have to fill it with fuel. You are like that car. You have important functions and an important place in this world—whether that’s to your family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers. People are relying on you. In order to show up for your people, you first have to show up for yourself.
I don’t want you to always think of self-care as something you do so you can take care of others. (The car analogy will only carry us so far.) You deserve to take care of yourself simply because you’re a human in the world. But if it helps to tell yourself that self-care helps you care for others, it’s okay to start there.
What if your problem is the opposite? What if you feel guilty because you’re not engaging in self-care? Well, you need to remember this important point: Self-care is not self-improvement. For example, we don’t move our bodies because we need to achieve a particular fitness ideal. We move our bodies because it’s good for our health—physical and mental. That means if you miss a workout (or don’t yet have a workout routine), you can get to it when it serves you.
Also keep in mind that if there’s a self-care practice you feel like you should be doing but you’re not, there’s probably a reason. You might be overwhelmed, this might not be the season for it, or it might not serve you. Have grace with yourself.
I would love it if you read this post and that cured all your hang-ups with self-care. But the stories we’ve told ourselves—especially ones that start with “I should…” or “I shouldn’t…”—can be hard to rewrite. But that’s exactly what we must do—rewrite the stories that aren’t true. They aren’t serving us.
One thing that has helped me to shift my mindset in certain areas is affirmations. (I wrote about affirmations in my August newsletter, if this sounds familiar to some of you.) If you’re feeling guilty about self-care, try repeating one of these affirmations once or twice a day:
- I take care of myself so that I can show up for my people.
- I engage in self-care because I’m a person and I deserve it.
- I care for myself because I require maintenance to run well.
- I engage in self-care because it serves me.
- I take care of myself because I want and need to.
- I do the self-care activities that serve my needs.
You deserve to take care of yourself!
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