Sometimes I crack myself up. “Self-care is not selfish, it’s shellfish” was the punny thought running through my head when I decided to make myself a nice lobster dinner while my Adventure Partner was away.
While buying nice things for yourself is a form of self-care, it often doesn’t really quite fit the bill of “take care of yourself first or you’ll have nothing left to give others,” or “fill your cup first and the overflow goes to others.” Or even as I had to tell myself while going through my dark times on my way to emotional health – “A happy mom is a better mom.”
How often have you heard about people who always put others first, ahead of their own needs? I know that this aspect of my own behavior grew when I became a mom. I took care of my sons, and my then-husband, before considering my own needs. I thought this was normal. Going into an important work meeting with peanut butter on my skirt was a badge of honor, not an embarrassment. (I will never regret that hug from my preschooler, but I regret not having the self-awareness to make sure I was as professional looking on the outside as I was on the inside…a disconnect of sorts). After years of putting others first, my own tank ran out and my life became unmanageable.
This way of being over-responsible for others didn’t happen with the birth of a child. I can remember during my early teens (which is about the time my dad left us), being a counselor-in-training at summer camp. I was voted “most likely to become counselor” because of a strong sense of responsibility. By the time I started having romantic relationships, this care-giving quality turned into care-taking (a form of being “helpful” which is actually enabling – doing things for people instead of letting them do it themselves). It took me years to realize that taking care of others first was a way for me to avoid looking at myself, and why I thought I wasn’t worthy of self-care.
Adventure in seafood
Back to the lobster. Why would this adventure in seafood be considered self-care of the compassionate, self-loving kind instead of the quick-fix “I bought something nice” self-care? Because I listened to my feelings, my internal emotional side of my being. I made a deliberate choice that I am worthy of treating myself right. Not a childish reaction to a situation. No stamping of my inner-child’s feet saying “well, he’s gone away so I’m going to do something to make him sorry.” Nope. It was a gentle, loving way to give myself joy. Instead of eating cereal for dinner, and feeling a little depleted, I made an adventure of shellfish. I enjoyed the ride to the store. I allowed the memories of taking my kids there when they were young to wash over me. I used my senses to take in all the colors, sounds and smells of the store. I joked with impatient customers I was waiting behind. I bought enough to share lobster salad with a friend I’m meeting for lunch soon. I shared cooking tips with the cashier. I shared my “reward” of free ice cream with a mom with two young kids (and she had her one reward to cash in). I resisted the urge to ask someone to photograph me playing with the live lobsters…which, me being my true self, I played with the lobsters anyway!
To lobster or not to lobster
You may or may not like lobster, or may have allergic reactions to shellfish. In this case, feel free to change the statement from “Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s______________” (insert how you did something to feel fulfilled, joyous and better able to share your true you with others). Me, I’m sticking with my punny statement!