By Audrey Cade
The threshold from one year into another is the ideal time to reflect upon the events experienced and lessons learned. Many of us set goals for a new year based on what has transpired in recent times. Do we want to give up on a bad habit, develop some healthier ones, reconnect with friends or family, or perhaps try something new? The blank canvas of twelve months of calendar pages is intriguing as we imagine the progress we could make and the change that could take hold in our life!
When I look back on this previous year, one point about it that stands out to me is that this was the first year, in a long time, when I said “yes” to myself more often. My status quo, for far too long has been self-denial. Not because I purposely try to punish myself; but, because I have allowed myself to get caught up in the trap so many other women and mothers do.
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Too often, my answer to myself for anything I want or need has been “no.” I always have a reason why:
It’s too expensive.
I don’t have the time.
The kids, the car, the house, (insert variable) need something more than me.
I walk a perennial tightrope between need and want. The responsible and thrifty side of me drives a hard bargain against the more frivolous or needy side of myself. Responsibility is important. I’m an adult, a parent, and employee. People count on me to provide, produce, and hold things together. I spend so much time worrying about what everyone else wants and needs from me, that I eventually turned down the volume on my own voice and placed all my needs on the back burner.
Phrases like “self-care” registered as selfish to me. How could I justify the things I saw in advertisements, social media, or heard my friends talking about? I talked myself out of virtually everything by convincing myself I wasn’t important enough.
I can’t identify the one thing that caused me to open my eyes and question my methods, but I did. Something made me finally realize that I am worth saying “yes” to. There is no special badge of honor I can expect to receive by failing to take care of myself or allowing myself the pleasure of some personal enjoyment, any more than there’s a wall of shame for women who tell their children, partners, bosses, and others “no” because they need to take care of themselves.
I had enough sense to tell other mothers to re-charge their batteries, so why didn’t I heed my own advice?
I feel hypocritical for all the times I told parents of the children I do case management for to engage in self-care. How many times did I say “you need to get rest, do nice things for yourself, and allow others to help out so that you can be strong to continue to do what you do!” I had enough sense to tell other mothers to re-charge their batteries, so why didn’t I heed my own advice?
Perhaps I thought I was stronger or less deserving? I really don’t know; but, it was time for a change!
It started small. The purchase of a new candle for the living room seemed somehow scandalous! The candle was a gateway to a new pair of shoes, a few pieces for my wardrobe, and a purse I had my eye on. I knew better than going from one extreme to the other. I couldn’t go from a drought of “no” to complete excess. The important thing is that I put myself back on the agenda as a priority again.
Are you stuck in a “no” rut? Here are some ways to climb out:
1. Get to the root of “no”
What are you afraid of by saying “yes?” Once you know what’s holding you back, you’ll be better able to rearrange your priorities to include yourself as one. If it’s a budget concern, maybe it’s time to assess your saving and spending habits. If you feel obligated to meet others’ needs, consider the importance of meeting your own, as well.
2. Practice saying “no” to others more often
Setting boundaries doesn’t make you a bad or selfish person. You deserve your time and to have your needs respected as much as anyone else. It’s about finding balance. We can’t always say “no,” but we also can’t allow ourselves to be a doormat!
3. Find your happy
If the obstacles you place in your path didn’t exist, what would you do for yourself? Are you more inclined to time and relaxation for yourself? Is the key to your smile through new things for yourself (e.g. clothing or fun things for your home)? Do you crave pampering? Develop a wish list, then figure out how to indulge yourself at a level you are comfortable with. Practicing self-care will make you more comfortable with the prospect of being on the receiving end of goodness and build it into your routine.
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4. Be clear about priorities
It’s important to define what self-care means to you. Is it the little treats that maintain your stress levels and keep you feeling satisfied, or have you mislabeled basic needs as self-care? Passing up a massage or taking a nap is far different from skipping your mammogram or ignoring a tooth in need of repair. Make sure that your abstinence from focusing on yourself isn’t to the degree of being detrimental to your health or safety!
5. The world will continue to turn
Do you do everything in your power to meet your loved one’s basic needs and to indulge them with the things they desire? Do your bills get paid and all the “to-do’s” on your list usually get checked off? Quit telling yourself that you will disappoint or fail others if you do something for yourself! Of course, as an adult, we have to make sure our responsibilities are met; but, the people who love you will enjoy seeing you happy and forgive you for not always giving in to their whims.
6. Recharge those batteries!
If you are taking care of business, then part of your business should be keeping yourself rejuvenated and able to carry on! Go ahead and pledge to be the amazingly strong glue that holds the universe together, just remember that you can’t be everything to everyone without saying “yes” to yourself!
What will your new year bring? Hopefully, many opportunities and chances to get on the right track to break some of our less-than-desirable habits. If one of your negative behaviors is self-denial, it’s time to own your worth and the benefit of treating yourself as nicely as you treat everyone else! Happy New Year!
About the Author
Audrey Cade is the author of “Divorce Matters: help for hurting hearts and why divorce is sometimes the best decision” (on Amazon) and the matriarch of a blended family of eight. She is an experienced “divorce warrior” in the areas of co-parenting, step parenting, parental alienation, and re-marriage, and enjoys sharing these experiences with others who are also committed to raising happy and healthy kids. Audrey’s professional experience is as a case manager social worker with the developmentally disabled, families with young children, and homeless populations. She holds degrees in Early Childhood Education, Human Service & Management, and a Master’s in Psychology. She enjoys family outings, a variety of arts and crafts, cooking, gardening, and writing. She is a featured blogger for Divorced Moms, has work regularly appearing on Divorce Force, and articles appearing in Step Mom Magazine, The Good Men Project, and others.