Day 5: Self Integrity: Being responsible about your wellbeing
The concept of taking care of ourselves isn’t to be stressed about the things we have to cut out of--or add into--our lives. It’s about honoring the self. It’s about remembering what’s really important in our lives, and using our time wisely in congruence with our values and priorities.
Of course, there are responsibilities and obligations in life--it’s a part of being a grown up. And yes, some of our obligations and responsibilities don’t seem like very much fun. The trick is finding all the ways you can align as many of your obligations with what matters most to you. Anytime we say yes to something or someone, we enter into an obligatory relationship. Work, friends, family, pets, our home and stuff, the list can go on. But as owners of our lives, we have more power over our commitments than we realize.
Your yes is sacred!
‘Yes’ really means ‘I am prepared and willing to commit my time, energy, and resources to this person/thing. This is important to me’. How many times have you said yes to something or someone when you really, really, really wanted to say no? How did that feel?
When we give someone our ‘yes’, we should strive for that yes to be enthusiastic! We should be prepared and willing to show up with our best selves if at all possible for the things we commit ourselves to. The big things and the small things. When we say yes to people and things that don’t bring us joy, or align with what’s important to us, we sacrifice our time, energy and resources for little to no gain. The more we do this, we send a message to ourselves and others, that says ‘I’m not really that important’. We drain ourselves of the energy and resources we need for the things that actually matter to us. We do ourselves and our circle of people a disservice.
How to Say No...with Grace
It’s really OK to say no. Really. I know for some of you, saying no can feel awkward, uncomfortable, or maybe even downright painful. But saying no gracefully can be a blessing to the other person--it’s a commitment to only give the best 'you' you can give. The litmus test for when to say no is easy. Is it on your Bucket List or your list of priorities? No? Barring an emergency, it’s a-ok to say no. If you’re not sure, ask for time to think about it and get back to them in a reasonable timeframe, if possible. Once you’ve gotten clear on your priorities, and with a little practice, saying no becomes easier and easier, and you’ll find you need less time to decide what’s best for you.
But how do we say no without sounding like a jerk? Like all things, begin with gratitude. Thank the person for the invitation, the request of your time and presence, or your help and then simply say ‘No thank you.’ Period. End of sentence. Did that make you feel a little uncomfortable? We often get wrapped up in a need to excuse ourselves, or explain in detail our choices, and to absolve ourselves of the guilty feelings of saying no. And it’s simply not necessary. You own your life--you’re allowed (and encouraged!) to say no when you need to, or simply when you want to. And so is everyone else. Freedom!
It’s really about giving your best. Your best Yes and your best No. Life can become less stressful for you, and easier on others, if you say no with grace rather than back out at the last minute. Or give someone an insincere yes and show up begrudgingly, not offering them your best you.
Of course there will be things we simply must say yes to, even if we really don’t want to on the surface. This is where practicing good self-care, and being clear on your priorities is important. If occasionally we have to give a less than enthusiastic yes, we have the resources and energy to give of ourselves even when it’s not ideal.
Asking for what you need
An often overlooked (and sometimes also overused) area of self-care is asking for what we need from others. Yes, my buckets are my responsibility to fill. And, it’s ok to ask for help in filling some of them. Good examples include: physical intimacy/touch, social connection, or care when we’re feeling down or sick. A wise man once told me, ‘The surest way to not get what you need is to not ask for it’. Many of us have been taught that asking for help equates to weakness. I’m here to tell you: there is strength in vulnerability. As a species, we humans are stronger together. No one is an island. It’s natural to lean on others when we need support, just as it is to offer support to someone we care about who needs it.
The important piece here is the asking. Sometimes in our relationships, we may find ourselves expecting the other person to read our minds. The other person should just know when it comes to what we need. This type of thinking quickly leads us to disappointment, dissatisfaction, and not getting our needs met. Even if you’ve been in a relationship with someone for years, the mind-reading expectation is a recipe for disaster, my friends.
Instead of placing the responsibility on others to know what we need, we ask--kindly. We say please, and we are direct, clear, and specific on what those needs are. If you need something, but can’t name it, then neither can anyone else. Being clear and kind helps us fill our buckets, and as a bonus, improves our relationships.
Self discipline is self care, too
Self care isn’t all about luxurious naps and spa days. It requires a little work, a little discipline, to get into making it a regular habit. At first, making yourself a priority may feel difficult. Your passionate intention to go to bed/wake up earlier may feel like the worst idea ever when it’s 10pm and you’re in the middle Game of Thrones, or when it’s 6am and all you want to do is snooze through the time you reserved for yourself to journal or meditate. Or when that piece of pizza is making eyes at you after you’ve dedicated yourself to improving your diet.
Make it easy on yourself while you’re getting into the habit. Set little reminders on your phone (I’m a big fan of my bedtime alarm that goes off twenty minutes before 10pm that says ‘You deserve good sleep’). Write yourself post-its, or put your self care rituals in your daily planner. Remind yourself why you’re making you a priority. In time, as you begin to feel the benefits of living kindly to yourself, it will become second nature.
In the last part of this self-care series, we’ll talk about a few basic strategies you that can help get you started on your own self-care journey.