So many times I hear people refer to things they are doing to care for themselves as selfish. It is almost like putting yourself first in any aspect of your life is a bad thing. There are these feelings of guilt that wash over us as we take the time to care for ourselves. We are thinking about all the things we should be doing, we could be doing for the others in our lives.
Self-love is essential
This is not true. Self-love and being selfish are two very VERY different things. Self-love is essential to your happiness, your ability to thrive, and your confidence. Self-love is taking the time to fit in exercise, healthy meals, massages, an hour away from your kids to take a walk, time to read a book. Self-love is crucial to maintaining you. Maybe the key is to stop thinking about taking care of yourself as selfish and instead think of it like you do an oil change on your car. What happens if you don’t keep up with oil changes on your car? What happens if you let your car run out of oil? It blows up. The engine dies. The car is rendered useless. Self-care is soooo important. You cannot take care of the other people in your life fully until you care for YOU.
Being selfish is operating with a lack of consideration for others. It is deciding that the needs of others just don’t matter to you. It is operating with complete disregard for the health, safety, happiness of others. It is so very different from self-care.
Taking time for you is NOT selfish
Just because you take the time to care for yourself does not mean you are not considering others. In fact, it may be the very opposite. If you can’t fully take care of others until you take care of yourself then you are doing just that — considering others. It is not selfish to have your spouse take the kids to their baseball game so you can squeeze in a run. It is not selfish to order in dinner because you are too exhausted to cook. It is not selfish to miss the monthly PTA meeting so you can go to bed early. Whatever it is, don’t feel guilty. Stop feeling guilty. Find the time to take care of you so that you can be the best version of you.
How do you practice self-care?
I have decided that I need to see a therapist about my postpartum psychosis. I have been having bad thoughts about my babies. I would never hurt them but it makes me feel like a horrible mom for having these thoughts. I know therapy is a step in the right direction but is there also a medication that could help? I don’t know what to do but I know something needs to change.
Sincerely, Erica from Missouri
The Courage To Speak Out
Mabel: Hi Erica, I commend you for your courage to speak out. I know that many moms who suffer from postpartum psychosis feel so horrible about their thoughts that they are embarrassed to address them. But, starting the conversation with a licensed therapist can help you heal and move forward in a positive direction.
Postpartum psychosis is caused by the hormone fluctuations that occur during and after the birth of a child. These hormone changes can be major and they mess with the chemical makeup of our brains. In addition to negative thoughts, these changes can cause depression, severe confusion, loss of inhibition, paranoia, hallucinations, mania, and delusions. They usually start to occur in the first two weeks after childbirth. These things you are experiencing have a lot more to do with biology than your morale as a person.
You are NOT a bad mom. The fact that you feel like a horrible mom means that you are exactly the opposite. You are a good person and a good mom for wanting to get help and make changes so that you don’t have these thoughts.
I am proud of you for seeking help. There are medications that you are welcome to discuss with a health professional. Therapy will also benefit you and help you to heal.
I don’t pose that question lightly. It is a topic worthy of our thought, our discussion. It is a reality that demands to be paid attention to.
We rush to the hospital to give birth to our precious babies who quickly become the center of our worlds. They are carefully looked over and checked up on with appointment after appointment. All the weight checks, the shots, the checking to make sure their hearts sound well, their joints are developing correctly, it goes on and on..and for good reason. These are our babies and they are small and tiny, and oh so new to this world. We should be paying attention to their health and their development but what about moms?
Moms are sent home from the hospital after just going through a major life transformation with some guidelines, maybe a painkiller or two, and in many cases a few stitches. They aren’t followed up with. They are supposed to figure it out. It is their God-given ability to be a mother, so they should just know how to do it, right? Society expects that mom will seamlessly adjust. She will adjust to this new normal with little help. Yea, it won’t be easy but she will get through. The only follow-up she has to look forward to is six-to-eight weeks postpartum when in many cases her incisions are looked over and she is sent on her way.
There is no depression screening, no required well check, no one helping mom adjust. Mothers need to be ok too. After all, happy mothers raise happy children. It is hard to care for anyone if you don’t first care for yourself. Let’s check in with our mothers. Ask if they are ok. Make sure they are ok. Let’s listen to our mothers, hear their cries for help and honor their need for support even when they themselves might not realize how much they need it. It takes a village to raise a child, that is for sure. We can’t expect a mother just because she has a uterus to suddenly be thrown into a whole new world like nothing ever happened. It is a shock to the system. She deserves support and she needs it.
Have you ever heard the phrase “shut up and show up?” There is a reason it exists and the underlying meaning can be a powerful reminder to all of us. It is saying stop all the talking, the broken promises, the excuses, the word vomit spewing from your mouth and instead show people you care through your actions.
Actions speak louder than words. You can tell someone you care but until you actually step up to the plate with a kind gesture, a caring action, your words mean nothing. By “showing up” you are telling this person that you are here for them and that they are worthy of your attention, your time.
Our time is a valuable commodity, especially these days. We are constantly flooded with media and overstimulated. Our attention and our minds are being pulled dozens of directions at one time. It is up to you to make the conscious choice, the conscious effort to put your actions where your mouth is. Show people what they mean to you by physically being there in some way or another. It doesn’t have to be anything drastic or over-the-top. Simple gestures like helping a friend who is hurting to run an errand, delivering meals to a sick family member, putting the phone down to watch your daughter’s dance recital, or getting up early to make your spouse breakfast—its these small gestures, these simple actions that show others you care.
So stop promising to do this or to do that. Stop telling your friends or family you care and then skipping out on them. Instead, show up. Be there. Show them they are worthy.
How do you show up for those you care for?
There is a difference between accepting and just “tolerating” your partner. Relationships are hard. You are each your own person, you have your own personalities, your own similarities and differences.
Love and Kindness
When you accept your partner you are wholeheartedly loving and receiving him/her. Acceptance comes from love and kindness. It comes from the heart. When you accept someone you have tolerance built-in. You are accepting your partner as they are and tolerating their imperfections because you love them and appreciate them. If you agreed 100 percent with everything your partner did it wouldn’t really be much of a relationship. No one is perfect. Everyone does things we don’t like/agree with but when you really love someone you learn how to tolerate those things. At least when they aren’t detrimental to the relationship as a whole.
On its own tolerance doesn’t come from love or kindness. It is not stopping the other person’s behavior. It comes from external motivation — whether it be to not get into trouble or receive judgment. Tolerating another person often has resentment. It does not come from the heart. It does not come from a genuine concern or care for the other person. It comes from personal fear or gain. If you just “tolerate” your partner or their behavior you don’t really care about the backbone of the relationship, which is acceptance.
In situations where I see a partner is just “tolerating” his/her partner’s actions, I encourage them to talk about it. To try to work towards acceptance. To minimize resentment, which can overtime build and ultimately destroy a relationship.