This month we celebrated women and girls on March 8th for International Women’s Day. I was reminded recently by an interview Brené Brown did with Melinda Gates on her podcast Unlocking Us about the power that women have to transform communities, economies, and families when they are lifted and amplified. But as we come up on the one year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, it’s critical to reflect on how much our society relies on women both on the frontlines and at home. Women make up the majority of the healthcare field and share a much larger portion of unpaid labor in the home such as child care responsibilities compared to men. Recent reports have also shown that unemployment rates for women have nearly doubled in the last year and an almost unbelievable statistic stated that 100% of the 140,000 jobs lost in December 2020 belonged to women.
With all of this increased stress and worry surrounding work, food, healthcare, and childcare, it is no surprise that women’s mental health and relationships have also taken a hit. Because women are often taught that the epitome of womanhood is selflessness, it can be dangerously easy to neglect self-care. If you’ve found yourself struggling with your mental health, burnout, joylessness, loneliness, perfectionism, or self-criticism, you are not alone. We’ve put together some tips for how you can reconnect with yourself, your joy, and live a more fulfilling life.
Be selfish. You don’t need to be selfless to be valuable. Be selfish. You are not here solely to please others – being polite, agreeable, and accommodating is not better than being your authentic self. Being selfish doesn’t mean being rude or aggressive, it simply means respecting yourself first. This expression of your needs could mean saying “no” sometimes, not settling for the last or the least, exploring and making time for your interests that may be different than your friend’s or your family’s interests, and normalizing being yourself and not who others want or need you to be all the time. Glennon Doyle, author of Untamed, says it best,
“Every time you’re given a choice between disappointing someone else and disappointing yourself, your duty is to disappoint that someone else.”
Love yourself. Based on the types of childhoods and relationships we each had in our pasts, we all received different messages about the kinds of love we deserve. Women often hide or mold parts of themselves to mesh into what they believe society or other people deem the most lovable. But people liking you is not better than you liking yourself. Learning to love yourself means accepting yourself exactly as you are and where you are, when you’re succeeding and when you’re struggling, for your strengths and your weaknesses. It means trusting yourself when you’re facing tough choices and challenges. It gives you permission to follow your longings and your passions and to only engage in relationships that remind you of your worth instead of making you question it.
Protect your energy. Take better breaks. Set better boundaries. Tune into your body and notice when your energy is being depleted and what kinds of things are depleting it. Scrolling on your phone is unlikely the type of break you actually need. It numbs your experience, or worse sends you into a spiral of comparison and inferiority, instead of fulfilling you and bringing you true rest. Pause and reflect on what kind of activities actually bring you rest and replenish your energy. Do you need to connect with your creative side? Is your body craving movement or stillness? Do you have a hobby that simultaneously recharges you, reconnects you to your authentic self, and reminds you that you’re good at something? Choose that. Choose yourself.
We also need to normalize that you can and need to take breaks from your family sometimes. Needing a break from them doesn’t mean that you love them any less, it actually allows you to love them more wholeheartedly. Schedule breaks to do things that recharge you and then protect that time. If you don’t set and maintain your own boundaries, nobody will do it for you and you will keep finding yourself feeling burnt out.
Feel and express ALL of your feelings. Happiness isn’t the only valuable emotion. If you’re not happy, it doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong. It means you have a new emotion to explore, feel, and express fully. You are an emotional being and that is a beautiful thing, even though it may be painted as negative or unprofessional. Being able to experience a full range of so-called “negative” emotions also means that you can experience a more full range of “positive” emotions. Glennon Doyle shared that she was once asked “Why do you cry so often?”, to which she replied, “For the same reason I laugh so often, I’m paying attention.”
All of our emotions are natural and help us interpret our environment and so we need all of them —even anger, fear, envy, resentment, and heartache. Anger teaches us about how to set and maintain our boundaries. Grief teaches us about the things we value and how to find meaning in loss. Fear teaches us about how we protect ourselves. Boredom can even be beneficial and carry important lessons. It allows us to reassess how we spend our time and if we’re spending it on things that bring us joy, interest, or add value to our life. Don’t numb your emotions, learn from them. Let them tell you what you want, what you need, and what you stand for.
Lean into your community. Know you are not alone in your anxiety, stress, and loneliness. All around you are other women who are struggling with the same things you are. If you communicate your experience and needs you can better connect with those who care about you. Remember, vulnerability isn’t a weakness, it’s one of the strongest tools we have to connect more with ourselves and with the people around us.
These are not easy changes to make- women have always told that being selfish is one of the worst things you can be. It will definitely change your life, but maybe not in the way you think. Being selfish, loving yourself, protecting your energy, feeling all of your feelings, and leaning into your community will free you, energize you, recconnect you, and make your life richer. Give it a try and see for yourself.
Contact us to explore how being selfish could transform your life. We offer virtual sessions only right now to accommodate the safety of our staff and clients during the time of COVID-19.