On Taking Care of Yourself
Recently, I adopted a new phrase, one that I use when interacting with other people. I use it at the local breakfast shop, after I’ve paid at the grocery store, at my friends’ houses, at parties, amongst relatives, amongst strangers. I use it all the time. Some would call it old-fashioned or think of it as a phrase reserved strictly for social interaction between people who hold close bonds. But I think of it as a phrase of encouragement, of best wishes, of good intentions. Take care.
When I tell someone to “take care”, I say it earnestly and honestly. I say it because this particular customer is consistently friendly or because I know my best friend is going through a quarter-life crisis. I say it because I won’t be seeing these people again until the semester ends. I say it because it is an important reminder to others — and to myself — that it is okay to be your own number one priority.
Life can be demanding. It can be confusing and frustrating and painful and just plain difficult. But can’t it also be beautiful, joyous, harmonious, even peaceful? Can’t it be incredible, exciting, breath-taking? We owe ourselves the ability to experience life in all its glory. We deserve to face the day with happiness and grace and humility. We deserve our own self-appreciation and self-love. And all of those things start with taking care.
Taking care of yourself means allowing yourself to be unapologetically selfish every once in a while, even if it’s not in your nature to do so. For you, this could mean running your Saturday morning errands on your own clock without responding to anyone else’s list of needs. Being selfish, in this sense, means that you do things that are good for you, regardless of anyone else’s opinions or desires. If you’re not living for yourself, who are you living for?
Taking care of yourself means accepting your mistakes for what they are and loving yourself enough to learn from them in the future. In a world where perfectionism is pushed upon us by a variety of societal forces, it is all too easy to forget that the human condition is built for mistakes. Not everything you say or do is going to be a perfectly fluid masterpiece. When you slip up, respect yourself enough to accept the mistake you made without dwelling on it. It is important to remind yourself that you do not have to live with your past endeavors; simply learn from them and move forward with a wiser conscience for the future.
Taking care of yourself means making time for yourself every single day. Some days this may be more difficult than others, but it is a crucial step in caring for number one. Take a few minutes each day to allow yourself to just be in the present moment. Appreciate your life and accept your journey for what it is. It could mean painting your nails or watching an episode of your favorite Netflix show or writing a post for your blog. Whatever it is that makes you happy in that moment, allow yourself to do it and to enjoy it. Every day.
Taking care of yourself means being able to prevent other people’s problems from becoming your own. It means developing the skills to separate your emotionally charged reactions from the outside stimuli that caused them. If there is one school of thought that you focus all of your energy on for the rest of your life, let it be this: You are perfectly justified in being happy, even when it seems that those around you are not. No one person was built to handle the problems of the global population; it is both impossible and unfair. You must be careful to entrust yourself with managing your own life rather than expending all of your valuable energy on worrying about the outcomes of others’.
Taking care of yourself means eliminating the negative things, people, relationships, behaviors, and thoughts that are currently influencing your life. I am a firm believer that you are a direct result of the thoughts that you allow to encompass your mind, the people you surround yourself with, and the choices you make in your actions. When these three things are positive on their own and in combination with one another, you are provided with the foundations that you need for a positive way of life. Take the time to really evaluate the past few months. Under what conditions have you felt fulfilled, proud, at peace, or full of joy? Now, what conditions produced the opposite effect on your behaviors, thoughts, and emotions? Make a conscious decision to simply get rid of those contributing factors that are not benefitting you.
Taking care of yourself means not apologizing to anyone — even you! — for the person that you are. It means embracing your flaws, perhaps even learning to love them. This can be a difficult task, but it is possible. I’m willing to wager that the majority of the feelings and thoughts that people have about themselves are calculated with a very narrow frame of mind. We don’t take the time to step outside of our own heads, to think of ourselves as our loved ones think of us. If you can find something about yourself that you dislike but that someone else adores and appreciates, that can be a good place to start. Caring for yourself means caring for every little part of you, not just the parts that you happen to like best.
Taking care of yourself means no longer continuing to indulge in your own self-pity. It means picking yourself up and moving forward with confidence in yourself and in the future. It means changing your approach towards yourself. If you want things to change, you must make a conscious decision to be productive about enhancing your own wellbeing. This means being able to recognize when you are pitying yourself, allowing it to happen for a very brief period of time, and then finding the encouragement within yourself to reinstate a positive frame of mind. The world helps people who help themselves, so get to it!
If there’s one thing I know it’s that life is wildly unpredictable in the worst and the best ways. So trust your past, present, and future struggles. When things become difficult, learn to balance leaning on yourself with leaning on those who you hold closest to your heart. When you find that being strong is your only option, you will be surprised by the strength that you possess. So be gentle with yourself, care for yourself, and be confident in your capabilities. And wish the same for those around you. The world is at its best when each of its individual parts is in harmony. Take care.
This piece was originally published on May 18, 2015.