Why I chose self care, for life - #selfcareweek 2018
‘Taking the time to look after yourself’ - my definition of self care - shared earlier today with Garry Turner the host of the Value in Vulnerability podcast, as part of a series raising awareness around Self Care Week 2018, which is taking place right now.
Reading that out loud, frankly, sounds ridiculous to me. But it’s something I’d become incredibly bad at until April this year when I left my corporate career behind and took a career break. Why? Because after burning the candle at both ends for far too long I’d been confronted with one of the biggest revelations of my life - I’d forgotten how to look after myself. I’d burnt out, and so I chose self care, deciding the best way for me to do this was to start from scratch. It turned out to be one of the best (and hardest) decisions of my life and the journey hasn’t been easy, but at a time when the conversations around mental health, well-being and self care have never been louder I felt confident that it was the right choice for me - I still do. And I’m already starting to feel stronger for it. More confident. Back in control. So I wanted to use my new platform as an aspiring entrepreneur, and new business owner, to share some insights into my self care story so far.
Burying my inner saboteur
Looking back I now see one of the biggest reasons that led to me burning out was an inability to say ‘no’. I’d become a people pleaser, and stopped putting myself first. As a result I had unintentionally set myself off on a journey careering towards self sabotage. Things began to slip. I started to become overwhelmed and felt increasingly shameful about asking for help. For the first time in my life I felt like I was failing, which led to a lack of self confidence and the fear of failing started to stop me from trying, and pushing past barriers that I’d have previously driven gleefully right through. I became incredibly self conscious and as a result started to remove myself from social situations, finding excuses not to spend time with those who, it turns out, were actually part of the solution to my problems through the amazing support they’ve given me since I opened up and started sharing what I’ve been going through. Choosing self care is helping hold me accountable to making positive changes, and muting my inner saboteur.
Learning to fail forwards (and then laugh)
I used to think this sounded so cliche but now I don’t. I’m owning it. Using my failures as ways of learning, becoming more resilient and moving on. Less dwelling. Overthinking. Spiralling out of control. I took a big risk when I left the stability and security of a full-time job behind, but what was pointed out to me earlier today has shown me how far I’ve come - the risk I took, and the jump that I made required confidence. Confidence that I didn’t think that I had left in me. The best part of my journey at the moment is that pretty much everything is new. So I’ve accepted that I’m going to have to make mistakes and sacrifices to get to where I want to be. It brings a smile to my face just writing this as I remember so of the cock-ups I made in my first few months at EY back in 2010. Choosing self care has helped me to get back to the point where I can laugh at myself.
Rediscovering a lost (and clearly helpful) passion
One of the best ways to look after yourself is to exercise. I’d forgotten that too, or perhaps I’d chosen to? The irony here is that my first attempt at entrepreneurship was running a personal training business. I literally had no excuse for not exercising, except I now appreciate that I did. Really? Well I can tell you from experience that in the grips of an anxiety attack, grabbing your trainers and popping out for a run to ‘clear your head’ doesn’t really factor. But since I’ve taken the steps towards regaining control I’ve started to exercise again. I don’t think I’m anywhere near fitness 2010 when I ran the London marathon but I have pledged once again to myself that I will enter the ballot in January 2019. In the meantime I’ll get back into the swing of things, safe in the knowledge that the huge amounts of food I’m guaranteed to consume over the upcoming festive season will at least be counteracted. Building exercise back into my routine. Choosing self care has ensured that I put this, and myself first more often than not, because let’s also be realistic sometimes a night on the sofa with a good book or bingeing your favourite boxset is much more appealing, and also two of my other passions, so I need to keep things balanced don’t I!?
And finally, appreciating what was always there (more than I have in the past)
I have some amazing friends. I feel truly blessed to have them in my life. They’ve supported me in ways that I never dreamed I could ask them to. Some directly because I’ve spoken up, and others who I’ve come to realise have subtly helped to nudge me in the right direction, personally and professionally. If you’re reading this you’ll know who you are, and I will be forever grateful. Please keep pushing me. Holding my hand. Encouraging me to keep going. You’re all absolute rockstars and I love you all. Choosing self care made me realise what I had in my life all along.
Here’s to taking more time to look after ourselves. A work in progress for everyone I suspect?
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Take a step back in time with me and follow my self care journey in more detail via a series of LinkedIn articles published over the course of my 8-week career break, embracing mindfulness amongst other things!
Find out more about Self Care Week 2018 here.