Why Self-Care Isn't Selfish

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Folks, I’m fat. I have been fat for most of my life. My grandmother was fat. My mother was fat. I thought it was my fate to inevitably become fat too. I anticipated my expanding waistline the way someone anticipates paying taxes in April. I know I’m not going to like this but I’m pretty damn powerless to do anything about it now. 

Don’t get me wrong. For those who know me personally, I know I’m not overweight in an “oh my word someone schedule that woman for surgery” type of way. But definitely in a “doctor leans in to gently rest a hand on my shoulder to say I'm medically obese” way. It happened. In short, I’m fatter than I should be. I’m fatter than my 5-foot tall frame can handle, and it’s been getting worse for the past few years. 

But here’s the thing. I’m realizing that being fat, for me, has been a lazy and unfortunate consequence directly related to my failure to live out my life purpose. What do I mean by that? 

Getting Serious

Last year I decided to finally get serious about living out my lifeplan. I wanted to practice what I preach and stop giving lip service to something I knew was good but hadn’t fully followed myself. So I started small. I started intentionally doing one thing every single day in line with the woman I was created to be. I used my lifeplan dashboard as my guide. And then I started doing a few more things each day until I squeezed out nearly everything that was not consistent with who I am at my core. I quit my job. I cut off bad relationships. I unfollowed a lot of people on social media. I quit drinking coffee so I could focus without a stimulant. I changed the way I ate. In three weeks I dropped 15 pounds. I slept better. Laughed more. Became more spontaneous. 

Looking back on what my life has been I now believe I have been living in what I call "the indulgence of self-neglect." 

What’s that you ask? 

Basically, I stopped taking care of myself a long time ago. Maybe you’ve been there too. I allowed my work to consume me, the needs of others to occupy my mental space, and a wall of emotional apathy and psychological cynicism to surround me. I had good reasons. Childbirth for sure was one. Anxiety and depression were others. I won’t go into my sad childhood story. But I will share that I learned very early on, at 6 years old maybe, that survival was paramount. And you don’t survive when you’re thinking about self-care. You survive when you hustle and work and strive and climb higher than you thought possible. 

We are responsible to others and responsible for ourselves.

And all that effort has made me quite the successful person who is a champion at ignoring my own needs. But I call it an indulgence because neglecting myself has gotten me off the hook from taking responsibility for my own welfare. I’ve been such a good busy New Yorker doing for others or for the larger common good that I haven’t had to take any initiative for my own wellbeing. And that’s a problem. Because I’ve been miserable inside. And as with taxes, I’ve acted as though I’m powerless to do anything about my circumstances. 

Owning My Part

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But my striving was wrong and that’s why I’m sharing this with you today. We are responsible to others and responsible for ourselves. If we want to live an incredible life that is full of joy, meaning, and deep satisfaction, we are responsible for going after that life. Yes, there is God. Yes, there is life planning that offers you a map. But you have to walk the path. I have to decide everyday that I will be responsible for living into my purpose or eating another tub of small-batch bourbon vanilla ice cream.

The more we fill our time with activities that are life-giving and consistent with our larger life purpose, the less time we have for those indulgences that ultimately deplete our energy and health. So if you’re feeling overweight, burned out, stressed to the max, I want you to consider how far away you are from your life purpose. Think of your anxiety-driven habits and back fat as measures of an internal misalignment. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a therapist so I absolutely believe and know there are legitimate biological components that impact our external way of being in the world. But if you’ve addressed those issues and you’re not finding success, using your life purpose as your compass can be liberating to experience the transformation you’re seeking. 

I like to make things practical, so I wanted to give you a worksheet to quickly assess how you’re doing in the space of self-neglect. It’s a fast check-in you can do with yourself now to immediately see if you’ve been indulging in self-neglect and what it may be costing you. Of course I love a good plan forward so at the end you’ll find my suggestions for how to make a change today. Click below to get access to your copy of the worksheet. Good luck! I'm cheering for you.