I recently had a conversation with a group of friends about self-care and what it means to each of us. We are a group of women from different backgrounds with different perspectives, so of course our thinking about this topic was no different. But for me, the thing I remember was struggling to feel connected to what was being said.
As I think back to the conversation, I realize something: for me, self-care is very much related to self-love. In many ways, I think I use them interchangeably. So, in the conversation with my friends, I struggled because I was not able to separate the two. To me, self-care isn’t just about taking care of yourself – making yourself look good, going to spas, walking etc. It’s more about listening to yourself and being attentive to not only what you need, but what you want.
Self-love is showing yourself kindness, care and most importantly, understanding. It’s about consciously choosing to put my needs and wants first. Doing what you want to do and not because you have to or are supposed to. It’s about trusting myself, believing in myself and treating myself with respect. Honestly, it’s something that I find very hard to do. I think this is why I think about self-care and self-love like twins.
I have been on a journey, as most of us have.
As a woman and mom of three, consciously communicating what I want and need over the years has been a struggle – and really, really hard. I remember a time when I didn’t even know what I wanted -- I couldn’t find the words. So, the concept of self-care felt foreign to me – and honestly, a bit selfish. It felt unattainable (and a little expensive), because I was lost and unfocused. It felt wrong for me to take care of me and put my needs first. It’s not that I’ve never done things that I’ve wanted to do, but I don’t think I communicated them very well, nor was I being honest with myself. Those things only happened after everyone else was taken care of.
I was never the priority.
The good news is I’ve learned. I have learned to say no, I have learned to establish boundaries that protect my well-being and I have learned to be unapologetic about standing up for myself. I’ve learned to make time for me – whether through exercise or spending time with my friends. Today I am a better wife, friend and mom because I have learned to love myself and take care of myself. The journey hasn’t been easy but I’ve gotten there…well, am getting there truthfully.
So, when I reflect back to my conversation with my friends, I would say “self-care” is about making your own needs a priority. Remember -- we are told to put on our mask first when faced with an emergency -- so we can help ourselves, and then help others.
Aiyshen and her wife are working mom's of three -- two college students and an 11th grader.