Every year as International Women’s Day approaches, I find myself writing stories that empower women. I feel strongly about the need to highlight women’s achievements, their strength, and their courage. In the past I have shared stories from my own life – about being a woman in STEM, raising feminist daughters and also about my own mother and her unique take on life. In most cases, the focus is on the doing, on achieving, on breaking barriers and shattering ceilings.
This year I want to write about something different. In a bid to prove that women are as good as or better than men or claim that we deserve recognition, there is a tendency to focus on our accomplishments, and on our actions that impact our family, workplace or society. While it is inspiring to see women who have scaled great heights and achieved phenomenal success, it may also be a double-edged sword for most women who are just trying to get through the day.
What about taking care of ourselves?
Recently I learned about Human Giver Syndrome, a condition that afflicts more women than men because of social conditioning wherein women are expected to play a supporting role, always putting the needs and wishes of others (spouse, family, children) ahead of themselves, resulting in the unpleasant (and avoidable) state of exhaustion if not burnout.
Based on my own recent brush with burnout, I want to deliberately shift the focus from doing more for others to taking care of ourselves.
Self-love is the foundation of all love
I sincerely believe that as women we need to love ourselves first so that we can put our own health and happiness at the top of our to-do list. And to know that it is OK to do so.
We can’t give what we don’t have. To give love, we need to have a reservoir of love within ourselves. Same goes for kindness, patience, generosity and all the other intangible things that we value and would love to have more of
For me to be authentic in all the ways that I show up in this world, I have to first love myself.
What does that really mean? Buying myself flowers? Devouring a box of chocolates? Receiving gifts?
While I appreciate all of the above, these are temporary bursts of indulgence. Undoubtedly, they break up the monotony of the days but seldom provide lasting relief.
Lasting changes require incremental shifts
What really works is to flip that endless to-do list which involves things that generally need to be done and things to be done for others and PUT MYSELF FIRST.
We understand that loving someone means prioritising their needs. By the same token, to love myself, I need to put myself first. I need to value what I have, be grateful for my life, and do what I need to do to take care of myself
What would I do if I prioritized myself?
- Read a few inspiring lines of prose or poetry
- Sit in silence
- Make an appointment for the long-overdue haircut
- Listen to soothing music
- Watch the sunset
- Move my body in a way that energises me
- Eat a meal slowly and enjoy every bite
- Get a foot massage
- Spend time creating my small zen space in the house
- Do something nice for someone
- Write something purposeful and profound
- Walk barefoot in a park or in my balcony garden
- Take photographs of everyday objects or life as it transpired on ordinary days
- Write a letter by hand to a loved one
- Browse the stacks in a local bookstore or library
- Catch up with a friend on a long phone call
- Sort through old photo albums
- Count my blessings
- Take a day off from work and lounge around at home or take day away from home and loiter around town
- Do absolutely nothing
You don’t need permission
Since women have battled for the right to do most of the things that men take for granted, the default tendency is to be bold, be brave and try new things. Yet, when it comes to prioritizing self-care, there is so much resistance.
Of all the items I have listed above, women find the last one to be the most difficult. There will always be bills to pay, laundry to fold, children and pets to take care of. Most women tend to wait for permission to take care of themselves. They wait for years for a free pass to take it easy.
As a woman, do you think taking care of yourself is equal to sacking off? Are you holding your breath and waiting for someone to notice how tired your body is, how depleted your spirit has become? Are you looking for a prescription to restore your wellbeing?
If so, here it is. I officially order you to take one full day off – physically and mentally, from your daily life. If you are short of ideas on what to do, take a cue from my list above. Otherwise, just follow your instincts. I wish you luck 🍀
Putting yourself first doesn’t make you selfish, it makes you sane.
Your first responsibility is to yourself and you need to take it as seriously as you take all your responsibilities to others.
There will always be time to do.
How would you like to just BE!
😀 Be yourself.
🎈Be by yourself.
❤️ Love yourself.
That’s perfectly OK.
If you need a permission slip, just use this article.
PUT YOURSELF FIRST! You deserve it.