There is a movement right now to increase our self-care. I’m actually apart of that as a coach/mentor/teacher.
Yet, I realize this isn’t easy for some. It wasn’t for me and might not be for you. Self-care starts with self-love. Not beating ourselves up. Deciding we are worthy.
Those were not concepts I was taught growing up. I was taught to do for others. That my value was about how I made others in my house feel. My brother and I were the ones having to take care of our mom. I had zero value in the house if I didn’t make her happy. That was the message I grew up with.
My worth depended on how everyone else felt. If I made them feel good, I was worthy. If I didn’t make them feel good, I was disposable.
Here is a little of my story.
My mom is a narcissist. Of course, she has not been diagnosed because there is a certain level of awareness to go to a doctor for a diagnosis. Growing up, I had no idea my mom was a narcissist. She was just my mom! Don’t all moms lock their kids out of the house at four so they can read? Me being in the house was a bother to her so she would lock us outside for hours in the summer. I would go to the neighbors to go to the bathroom. My brother was older so he would go to a friend’s house and play inside. I would sit on the front porch and wonder why I wasn’t lovable. Why did my mom think I was such a burden? How could I be a better child so my mom would love me? As a child, I only knew I was the issue. I was supposed to do better, be better so my mother would love me. I was unlovable because I talked too much. Because I asked for a glass of water. I was unlovable because I existed.
This was the message that replayed time and time again in my childhood.
-my parents divorced when I was 5 – the only fight I remembered them having was about me
-my grandmother had a stroke and passed away after telling me if I moved she would never see me again. As a 10-year-old – her death was my fault
-my brother lived with my dad and me with my mom once I was 10
-I was responsible to wake my mom up for work and cook her breakfast before I went to school
At sixteen, my mom kicked me out of the house. She sent me to live with my aunt and uncle two states away. I asked my dad if I could live with him. The answer was no – I wasn’t welcome. I had to walk a fine line with my aunt and uncle or I was told I could not live with them also. I was almost kicked out for watching a PG-13 movie when I was visiting my dad. I was 17 and been on my own even while living with my mom since I was 12!
Love to me always about proving myself worthy and good enough. The only way I could do that was to make others happy by doing for them.
My response was to stop giving a shit if others loved me. The price of love was my happiness, my self-worth. I meet my husband during this time in high school. I didn’t want to love anyone. I wanted to go on dates and not care about anyone because after I graduated I was off to college and freedom! Fuck everyone! I was going to be independent (ie- happy) and that meant not loving anyone. For me, love equaled pain – never measuring up! Why would I want to love someone??
However, he was the first person in my life to love me for me. I told him no when he asked to “go steady” with me yet he still asked me out for a date on Saturday! Friday he played football so we couldn’t go out then. He didn’t ask me to do anything for him. He fell in love with ME! I even couldn’t return the words “I love you” the first time he told me. I was so scared to love him then have him leave me!! Yet within months of dating him we both knew we would get married. How we knew, I don’t know other than our souls knew it. When we got engaged at 18, my aunt told people I must be pregnant. She told my future MIL I would stop her son from doing anything. Yet again, the message was I wasn’t good enough for him. I was broken.
Andy and I got married at 19. A month after my birthday and two days after his! We were both in college and worked out our wedding based on college semester breaks. We both graduated and have multiple college degrees which everyone said would be impossible.
Back to self-love! Andy and I were married 7 years before we had our daughter. He showed me how to be happy, confident, and carefree. Our daughter was born and she stole another piece of my stoney heart. Then our son was born and he stole another piece. These three people were the example of love and happiness for me.
As a mom, I was determined to allow my children to grow up different than me. They were not responsible for me or the household.
Yet, in a way they were. Sadly, I don’t think I allowed them to be free of my fear. I still had a fear that I was unloveable. If I didn’t do for them, they wouldn’t love me, right? Then they grow up and they are ready to leave. But I’m still caught in the fear that they are my only means of being worthy of love. If I’m doing for them as I did for my mom, they will love me. But if they are gone and I fully release them to live their life, how do I have value. I had lost my self-confidence and transferred it to my ability to care for everyone else every need.
Now, what was I supposed to do to have value? Confidence? Happiness?
This is when I started to hear about self-care. I was supposed to do more for myself and then I could be happy, confident, and know myself more.
I had no idea what self-care meant! Manicures? Gym? Those didn’t really make me confident.
The missing piece was self-love. I didn’t really need more self-care. I needed more self-love in-order to be happy and confident.
This is when the work began. I started to confront the ideas that I had to do for others in order to have value. I was great at fixing everyone’s problems. I was a people-pleaser because that was the only way I knew to have value.
Learning to love me has been the hardest process I have had to go through. See I have had to confront all the believes I have about myself. I have had to learn to accept the negative aspects of myself and the positive.
I have had to learn how to give to myself what was never taught to me as a child.
The old patterns still emerge at times. As I’m writing this, I’m out of town on a romantic getaway with my husband. Our daughter just texted me that she is sick. For a moment, I had to fight the guilt that I should have stayed home IN CASE she got sick. This is the old programming! I can’t fix it and I should put my life on hold to be available. Nor should you!
Some people are taught how to love themselves. They had parents and family that accepted them as they are. Some of us, have to learn how to fight for our happiness by coming to peace with our past. By learning that we are worthy because we exist. You don’t have to prove you are worthy of love by taking care of everyone else. Meeting everyone’s needs, real or anticipated, is not your purpose in life.
Your purpose is more than that and it includes your happiness. Yes, I was happy when I helped my children but my happiness was dependent on their happiness. As I say, I gave away my power to others. I didn’t know that then but I now know this. And I placed a burden on my children to make me happy. UGH!! I hate that but realize there is a give and take with people-pleasing. I want to make you happy but if you aren’t then I can’t be either. The problem is, no one can make another person happy! Andy can’t MAKE me happy. I have to want to be happy and accept happiness. I can’t make Andy happy. If he has a stressful day at work and isn’t happy, does that mean I’m a bad wife for not making it better? No, but I certainly felt it was my responsibility.
Self-care is a by-product of self-love. Once you know how to love yourself and can be happy being with no one else and doing for no one else, you can then do the stuff that feeds that love. Self-care can be whatever reminds you that you are worthy and loveable AS YOU ARE!