Self Care Guilt

What is this thing that happens to me when I do something nice for myself?  This immediate pang of guilt.  Where on earth does this come from?  Why does it happen every time?  Either in a feeling of remorse for doing something nice for myself, or a feeling of guilt because I have spent an amount of money or time doing something that my brain has labeled frivolous.

Writing right now falls into that category.  Writing is something that makes me feel so good.  It’s like a brain massage getting out all the kinks.  It smooths my thought process and relaxes me.  Part of me knows that I’m doing the right thing by taking care of myself.  It’s the part of me that is great with kids, the super motherly part, and the therapist side of me.  And then there’s the other part.  The logical side that says “it’s too much” and “what a waste”.

I first started carving time out for myself in college.  Back then it was more about morphing into a super-tan version of myself.  I would spray tan once a week, get my nails filled regularly, and have platinum highlights painted to hide any hint of natural color.  I have to be honest with you.  While I felt “beautiful” because I matched all the other girls in my sorority, the inside of me felt so ugly.  Plus, those “beauty” treatments were really costly and they weren’t even that fun.  The nail salon smelled so bad and some of the skin picking and nail filing actually felt like torture more than relaxation.  Getting spray tanned, well, we’ve all seen that episode of Friends where Ross gets spray tanned (if not, here it is for you  I was an orange skinned, blond haired girl.

My self care methods have changed a lot since college.  I still get my hair dyed, but its a nice red color that looks natural with my light skin, and I paint my own nails as needed.  For me, self care now looks like trips to the acupuncturist, making sure I’m eating right, exercising, painting, writing, reading, taking breaks to do nothing, petting my dog.  Basically any activity that fill me with life on the inside.

But why do I still feel guilty after doing things that are nice for myself?

When I go to the acupuncturist I think that I’m wasting money even though I feel like I’m walking on clouds after.  When I read a novel I think that I should be reading for school.  When I’m writing a blog post for fun I feel like I should be working on my homework assignments.  When I pet the dog I think I should be cleaning.  When I workout, well working out some times feels like hell, so it’s punishing enough to not feel like self care when I’m doing it.  It’s so extreme that I don’t let myself do easy exercise like yoga or light walking hardly ever.  Even though those activities make my soul feel happy, I choose boot camp because it is the more practical option.  Therapy is the same way.  I feel like it is emotionally intense enough to not feel like self care, but calling a friend to talk about my problems feels like I’m putting a burden on them.  What’s up with that?

When this all occurred to me today I prayed about it immediately.  I asked God to break the pattern in my family of women who have a really hard time being nice to themselves.  I think that it worked.  Here’s what I’m going to need to do: I’m going to need to love myself as much and as often as I can.  Not in a self-obsessed way because, let’s be honest, I don’t think I could ever get to that point.  Rather, I need to fill my week with activities that make me feel really good.  They don’t have to be costly or time consuming to feel great either.  I can soak my feet in some mineral water, roller skate around the block, take a yoga class or do some gentle yoga at home, ask a friend to listen to me for ten minutes, meditate, write fiction, play a game, buy a plant, get myself a shirt, buys myself some flowers, or paint.  I think it’s about fitting these things into life as much as possible and seeing them as medicine my soul needs.

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