This one's for you
As we move toward nurses’ week, I find myself thinking about self-care. I’m not going to lie, when people talk about self-care I have a reflexive reaction to roll my eyes. Initially, I couldn’t really wrap my head around why I have this reaction. After all, it’s one of my core values to help people take care of themselves and to see possibility in their lives, even in dire circumstances. You would think that the idea of self-care would be a perfect fit for this.
So why the eye-rolling-resistance on my part? There are 2 reasons. First, when self-care comes up, I mentally put it down as one more thing to add to my never-ending to-do list, provoking a sense of obligation.
Not the most motivating approach to take action.
Secondly, so many of the things that are touted as self-care activities (massage, baths, manicures) aren’t remotely a match for the things that overwhelm me. Sure, it’s great when you are doing them but the lasting benefit from a massage just isn’t always enough when things are getting crazy (please still feel free to give me gifts of massages).
The definition of self-care has been watered down to “giving yourself gifts” instead of the true definition of “taking actions to protect your health and well-being, particularly in times of stress”. And even that definition, courtesy of Google Dictionary, doesn’t take into account the whole aspect of personal growth and creating a life you love as a component of self-care.
I propose the missing component of self-care,
the aspect that will make it truly compelling,
is deciding to make decisions out of love for your future self.
Not sure what this even means? It means doing everything within your power to set your future self up for success, the same way we do for our children or our patients.
It boils down to a mental hack.
I’m not above a good hack when the situation calls for it.
Why do something the hard way if there is an easy way?
So here it is: try thinking of yourself in the third person. It may be best to start by thanking your past self for all the things she did to set you up for the success you are having today. I’m sure you could list all the things that you haven’t done, but what about making a list of the things you have done. If you really want to embrace this approach, try writing a letter of thanks to your past self from a true feeling of appreciation.
Here’s what I mean:
My past self did all the hard work to get through nursing school. This started out my current career.
My past self managed to have and raise 2 beautiful children who give me way more joy than drama. This gives me a meaningful experience today.
My past self worked 2 jobs when she needed to and gave up extra work when she needed to. This helped me learn dedication and prioritizing.
My past self has worked hard on her marriage so I have a great relationship now.
My past self went to events where she knew no one and was uncomfortable so that the me of today could have those professional connections.
She worked hard for her graduate degree so that I could help people in a new way and have a better paycheck to provide for my family. This allows me to live in my current home and great town.
My past self joined coaching certification even when the path wasn’t clear which allowed the present me to have my own business.
I’m not saying this because I’m a hero, but because often, it’s easy to see how we’ve let ourselves down, not how we have supported ourselves and our dreams. This is just the first step to make the second step easier. Once we can appreciate the past version of ourselves, we can start seeing our future selves through a new lens. We can start applying dedication and love to what will set that person up for health, wellness, success, satisfaction and peace.
Sounds like a big order but it’s totally doable. Have you thought about what you actually want your future life to be like? Have you allowed yourself to swim in the pool of possibility? What do you want your life to look like in 10 years? 5 years? Next year?
It’s often hard to give the attention necessary to our own needs and goals and yet we are great at helping everyone else. What if we lumped our future self into that “other people” group? What if we sat with her (our future self) for a minute and put ourselves into her wisdom, the wisdom of the person who had made the necessary choices and sacrifices, taken the necessary risks, to become the person we dream of for ourselves.
What would she say to us now?
I’m pretty sure she would say something like this:
Keep going, it is worth it.
Take a break, the world won’t cave in if you give yourself some grace.
It IS working, you are doing it right.
You CAN do it, even when all the evidence suggests otherwise.
The walks after work ARE enough for now, it is the first step to achieving your physical fitness.
Keep trying new approaches. I am here to tell you it works. You WILL figure it out.
Don’t believe everything you think about yourself.
So if you are struggling to believe in something better for yourself, think about taking small steps for her. Use her as your motivation when you are too tired, or hungry, or frustrated to take the next step toward your goals. Focus on how she will feel if you can figure out how to be engaged and fulfilled by work instead of devastated. Think of how excited she will be when the goals start happening, one by one.
It’s always easier to do things for someone else, so make that someone else your future self.
“This one’s for you, you’re going to be so happy I did this”
I promise you, you can have the life that you dream of. If you have trouble believing this, let's chat. The first step is just to allow the possibility. Schedule a time here.