"I can be so caring to my friends, my family, to anyone who needs it... but me? I don't deserve it..."
I hear this kind of sentiment time and time again from clients. The idea of self-care is nice, and they agree with the theory of honoring our own needs... but as an actual practice? Well, that's for other people. I mean, who am I to take up space, to have a voice, to need a break sometimes? If I really allow myself that, isn't it indulgent? What if it takes support from someone else who needs it more?
Many of us are so adept at seeing the pain of those around us that we can start to "other" ourselves. "Yes, people need self-care... but not me... I'm different. I don't need care as much as other people do." Do you see the problem here? The most obvious issue is that we're all human, we all need care, and when we deny ourselves that kind of tending to, it can easily lead to burnout, resentment, and despair.
There's another, more insidious thing that happens as well. As soon as we start to other ourselves, we emotionally distance from those around us experiencing barriers, and this is the first step in losing empathy for our fellow humans. I don't think any of us want that. If we want to stay in connection, to continue being in community, we need to treat ourselves just as we would treat others - with care, and respect.
Now, don't get me wrong. I absolutely don't believe this difficulty with self care is something we as individuals have created. We live in a world that tells is (in a thousand different ways) NOT to care for ourselves - not in a way that's actually nourishing, anyway. We're told all sorts of things about pushing through, being tough, and the moral virtuosity of being a giver. So, from a feminist counselling perspective, it's important to recognize and acknowledge the many reasons we find ourselves feeling that self care is "not for us". It's also important to start to fight back - to do something different than we were taught, especially if it's no longer serving us or those around us.
Nicole Perry is a Registered Psychologist and writer with a private practice in Edmonton. Her approach is collaborative and feminist at its heart. She specializes in healing trauma, building shame resilience, and setting boundaries.
About the Blog
This space will provide information, stories, and answers to big questions about some of my favorite topics - boundaries, burnout, trauma, self compassion, and shame resilience - all from a feminist counselling perspective. It's also a space I'm exploring and refining new ideas.