As a coach and mentor I strongly believe in “you teach what you most have to learn yourself.”
And one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from life in 2015 is how to treat myself better.
When I was working with my awesome life coach Cady back in April, she asked me the question “Anna! Why can’t you just be nice to yourself?”
And that question has literally been echoing in the back of my head all year. Not in a bad way that makes me beat myself up even more, but more in a neutral and inquisitive way because it made me take a huge step back and go "huh! I don't know..."
Why can’t I be nice to myself?
After months of personal development and reflection, I’ve discovered several possible answers.
- I’m female.
- I’m a perfectionist.
- I've been living with anxiety and low self-esteem my entire adult life.
- I’ve attached my sense of self worth to what I do and how much I earn.
There’s more to the story, but those are a few of the answers, and I’ve been working on recovering from all of them (minus the female one, sadly I have to accept the hormone rollercoaster).
And while coaching dozens of other beautiful and talented women through their own inner and outer wellness journeys, I’ve realized that I’m not alone in being my own worst enemy and critic.
Almost all women tend to be WAY too hard on ourselves.
Yes, there’s pressure and demands coming externally from the society and culture we live in. Messages that tell us success equals having a respected, well paying job, a gorgeous home, a perfect relationship, adorable pets or babies, an active social life, pretty social media accounts, a fit body, a perfectly decorated Christmas tree, and a "meal plan."
But that pressure is NOTHING compared to the pressure that comes from within. The pressure we place on ourselves to do more and be more because we never quite feel good enough.
We isolate ourselves, and start to believe that we’re alone and the only person in the world struggling with these fears and insecurities and doubts and stresses.
We beat ourselves up for not measuring up to our own ridiculous expectations, and we talk to ourselves in ways we would NEVER talk to our best friend. Why do we allow this?
I think the whole problem stems from our linear approach to life. The approach we're taught in grade school that teaches us more is more, and productivity leads to success.
We’re taught that we need to work harder and do more, so we never give ourselves time to relax and simply BE. As we grow up we become self conscious of our place and role in society and our little bubbles, and we start to judge ourselves.
We lose sight of who we really are, our connection to our creativity and inner energy that is so abundant when we’re little kids.
We numb our insecurities with food, overwork, over planning, to-do lists, alcohol, and other addictive behaviors, which only make us feel worse. We never feel like we’re in control, even though we always are, and we never make time for the hobbies and passions we enjoyed as children.
We believe that spending time on ourselves is selfish or a waste of productivity.
How do we drag ourselves out of this negative cycle?
The answer is simple, but hard.
It all comes down to self care.
What does “self care” mean to me?
To me, self care is less about specific actions like taking bubble baths (although that’s part of it), and more about a state of mind.
A state of mind in which you view yourself as WORTHY of love and happiness, just the way you are.
It’s a state of mind I’m currently working on, because I’ve internalized so many damaging and negative beliefs about myself over the years (I’m not pretty, I’m not good enough, I’m fat, I’m overwhelmed, I'm too late, I’ll never get to where I want to be, etc etc.), the damaging self-criticism I like to call the “inner mean girl” (also known as the ego).
Self care is so important because it means taking a stand for yourself and believing that you deserve to be happy.
It means convincing my head AND heart that I'M worthy of love, acceptance, and success just by being myself, without having to change or improve or blog more or have a bigger business or rack up more external achievements.
It means putting my own needs first before reacting to the demands of life and work. Listening to my energy and honoring the signals my body is telling me.
Taking ownership of my day and doing the things I know will make me feel better, even if I’m facing resistance or am pushing out of my comfort zone.
Self care means ENDING the comparison trap, and celebrating other women's success without letting it diminish my own.
It means using jealousy as a POSITIVE tool to guide me towards the actions I need to be taking, instead of remaining paralyzed in inferiority.
It means carving out time to work on my “soul projects” like painting or sewing, even if zoning out with Netflix sounds more tempting.
It means NOT attaching ideas of business or productivity to my creativity...even though I'm the queen of turning all my hobbies into small businesses.
Self care is doing things like waking up early and going for a run even if it’s cold out and I’d rather be lazy and stay in bed, because I know it will clear my head and give me confidence and energy.
Or writing vulnerable blog posts like this instead of hiding within my journal and mind, because I feel good when I can express myself and connect with other women who are dealing with the same stuff.
Self care is taking action based on how I want to FEEL, even if I don't feel it in the present moment.
To me, self care is taking myself and my dreams seriously instead of blowing them off as unrealistic, unproductive, or a waste of time.
What can self-care do for you?
When you take time to put yourself first, you'll feel less overwhelmed and stressed. You will be able to relax, breathe deeper, and live in the present moment instead of worrying about the future or your to-do list.
You'll start to experience breakthroughs.
You'll be able to fully show up for your relationships and family without feeling resentful.
You will feel nourished and cared for from the inside out.
And if you’re thinking that you’re too busy to take time out for yourself…let the one and only Liz Gilbert give you a loving smack-down.
“Free time" isn't something you find in life, but rather something that you MAKE — carving it out of your real life obligations, because you care.
This is how you act as a co-creator of your own life — rather than just being swept away by the demands of the real world. This is you saying, "I am interacting with my life in a purposeful way," instead of saying, "I am a helpless slave to my many duties and obligations.
I'm telling you — this can always be done. Whatever it is you really care about in life (health, spirituality, creativity, meditation, love, service, study) you can always find 30 minutes a day for it. You have the other 23-and-a-half damn hours for everything else. (And everything else will feel better and less oppressive, too, when you know in your heart that you are devoting some part of your day to a purposeful endeavor.)
Set the timer on your phone (I KNOW you have a timer on your phone) and begin. Thirty minutes.
Use that thirty minutes a day to push back hard against all the voices that say: "Not now. Not here. I can't do this yet."
Those voices are dead wrong.
The truth is:
"Right now. Right here. We're doing this."
I know one of the biggest barriers to sticking with a self care routine (or any positive change) is lack of accountability.
Why is it so easy to procrastinate the things we KNOW will make us happy and feel better? I don’t know, but accountability is key.
Sometimes all it takes to get out of our heads and take ACTION is to see our goals and dreams written out on paper. Making things visible makes them real, and we have to remind ourselves every single day why we want to do the things that make us feel good.
And I’m a big fan of positive reinforcement, because if we immediately reward ourselves for good behavior, we’ll be more motivated to keep the groove going!
So I decided to make a Self Care Sticker Chart, because who doesn’t love stickers?
How to use the Self Care Sticker Chart
1. CLICK TO DOWNLOAD and print it out!
2. Fill the blanks with self care action items you want to make room for this week (workouts, meditation, healthy meals, walks, call friends or fam, hobbies, journaling, reading, etc…)
3. Set a target goal for the number of times this week you would like to complete each action (hint: don’t be a hero and try to overhaul your entire life all at once! Small gradual changes are key.)
4. Stick your chart to your fridge or bedroom mirror, and give yourself a sticker or mark off each day you complete your self care actions!
5. At the end of the week, reward yourself no matter how many stickers or boxes are checked off. This isn’t a competition or a race…and if you can mark off ONE action that’s major progress!
Remember: self care is a PRACTICE. You won't be good at first.
That's ok, being good is not the point.
Just start with baby steps, five minutes a day of breathing, or eating without reading, working, or watching TV.
My mission as a coach is to help women connect with themselves and develop a sense of self-worth that comes from within. I want to believe in you until you have the courage to believe in yourself. I want to be the mirror that reflects back your own beauty and light.
Self care is NOT selfish because the people in your life deserve to have you at your best.
So go do all those little things you've always wanted to do. Show up for yourself, even for just 30 minutes a day, because you deserve to be happy.
You are so shiny and bright!
p.s. I would LOVE to see your Self Care Sticker Charts in action! Email me pictures, or post on social media with the hashtag #selfcarestickerchart!