I learned a lot about myself today. I have some deeply ingrained habits that are not helpful to my physical or emotional health and I need to break them. I discovered today just how much a part of me they are.
I have been reading a book about making the best use of my personal energy in all parts of my life. I realized, while reading it, that I do not use good self-care to recover my energy. The major activity I have always chosen for self-care is rest. Sleep has been my restorative choice. This book suggested that there are other forms of self-care that might actually help me manage my energy better. Knowing that I usually turn to sleep when stressed or weary, I thought that I might try some new strategies.
I have already begun one new strategy. I have been exercising. Walking on the treadmill, riding a stationery bike, and taking yoga classes have been very good for me. Even though I have a long way to go, I can already feel some changes in my body. Since this is going so well, I thought I might try something else new.
I scheduled some beauty treatments for myself today. I made an appointment for a haircut and, while I was at it, also scheduled a manicure. This was a much bigger step than I anticipated. In the past, I have taken a kind of pride in neglecting my appearance. I have been known to proudly go up to two years without a haircut. My reasoning has been that what is going on inside me is more important than what I look like on the outside. Beauty products and services seemed frivolous and unnecessary, especially during times when money has been tight. I did not look down on other women who took care of themselves, but thought that such luxuries were not for me. Since I have been working, I have tried to keep myself presentable, but only with the most basic regimen – infrequent hair cuts, inexpensive hair products, very little makeup, and certainly no nail polish.
The book made me think that setting up some self-care rituals would really help me renew my energy, and so I made my appointment for today. I was looking forward to a little pampering, but when I arrived at the salon, a little, negative, self-bashing voice began to chatter. “You do not belong here.” “What a waste of time.” “Look at the money you are spending.” “You should have waited a couple more weeks to get your hair cut.” “You will just ruin your manicure in a day or two.” “You won’t even look good when you are done.” “Why bother?”
It was a really, really hard day. It made me think about why I have made neglecting myself such a virtue. I have become some sort of martyr, thinking that I am honorable because I don’t spend time or money on myself. I have developed a skewed view of my own sacrifices. Because I have seen self-care as a vice, my body has learned to crave the only restorative method I have allowed – sleep. Too much sleep at the wrong times has actually sapped my energy. Now that I am learning to exercise, I am learning that I don’t need to sleep as much. My eyes are being opened to wonderful methods of self-care that I have ignored for most of my life.
Today, as I listened to my inner critic, I decided not to let this critical inner beast rule my behaviors. I did try to figure out where that voice was coming from and why I have placed such a high value on self-denial. As I sat in the chair, getting my manicure, the woman doing my nails had to keep telling me to relax. Relax, relax, relax. When I was getting my hair washed, the woman told me to relax as she was giving me a scalp massage. Relax, relax, relax. That word became my mantra for the day. Relax, I told my inner voice. I need to restore my energy. I need to take care of myself. It’s okay that I am doing this. Relax.
By the time I left the salon, I had a big smile on my face. I felt as though I had left a pile of tension on the floor with my hair clippings. My nails were beautiful. My hands, neck and shoulders were relaxed. I felt good. I have to think some more about why I am so hard on myself when it comes to self-care. I hope to find some self-care rituals that don’t get that inner voice chattering. Until I do, I am going to take care of myself even if it means telling my inner critic to relax.