No, I’m not asking you…although it is February, so I might be asking my husband before the 14th!
I’m actually asking myself this question. And the answer really needs to be YES.
I know from experience that if you don’t pay attention to your body, you won’t be paying attention to your health and potential ill-health. It seems obvious I know, but it is so easy to ignore what’s going on under the skin. And yet, we can spend much time, money, and attention on how we look on the outside.
TRUE FACT: I have spent £70 on a face cream, but then decided I ‘couldn’t afford’ a £50 physio session to sort out my back pain.
TRUE FACT: I have spent £150 on a dress for an event, but then decided I couldn’t afford a £70 session with my therapist to help deal with the enormous anxiety I felt about going to the event.
A little about me
I have two chronic illnesses and I am very lucky that both are manageable with medication, although I am far from symptom-free. I have also had back pain since my twenties and debilitating anxiety since childhood. I can also throw menopause into the pot. Woohoo, what fun!
For a whole host of complicated reasons, I always had a pretty poor relationship with my body. I just didn’t like it much. I didn’t like how it looked, how it worked, or how it felt. So, I chose to largely ignore it for as long as possible.
I think for many people, the emotional relationship we have with our bodies is not something we think about much. And yet, it is important. No, it’s crucial!
If we don’t love, like, or notice ourselves much we just won’t be motivated to help ourselves when we need it.
Who else is noticing?
When we are children, if we are very lucky, we might have a parent, carer or sibling who notices when we are looking less than great. They might ask us if we are ok. They might even take us to the doctor, or someone else for help.
But when we are adults, who is watching? Again, you may have a partner, friend or colleague who notices you not looking well, or coping as well as you usually do. However, in my experience, often a robust ‘Oh I’m fine, I just need a couple of early nights’, delivered with a breezy smile, is enough to allow you to move on in blissful denial…at least for a while longer!
So why the self-sabotage?
Well, it’s pretty easy really. Using a lovely skin cream feels nice. Going for a back-pummelling physio session does not. Buying a lovely dress feels fantastic. Sitting in a therapist’s chair does not. It can be exhausting and difficult.
So, it’s not rocket science to work out why we sometimes make the choices we do is it?
But what I can tell you is that, even though I went to the event with glowing skin and a gorgeous dress, my back ached like hell and I was so riddled with anxiety that I just couldn’t wait to get home.
The first time I was actually proud of something my body did was when I gave birth. Firstly, I got pregnant very easily. How lucky was I? especially as I was almost 40. Who knew my rubbish body could build another human? Aren’t we amazing? I started to see my body differently.
Becoming a mum was also the catalyst for going into therapy. Interestingly, I still wasn’t motivated to help myself, but I was motivated to be the best parent I could be and that was enough to get me into the chair, which is fair enough. At least it got me there and after two years of hard work, I now have a lot of things sorted in my head. I know and like myself better.
Is working stopping you living?
The rest of the focus on self-care for me started when my corporate life stopped. When we have a big and busy job we are looking and thinking outwards ALL THE TIME….what do other people need? what’s that deadline?, is the boss happy? Why is my colleague such an idiot? what are my goals this month? Why does my to-do list never get smaller? How the hell do I fix that person/business/computer/problem? Blah, blah…..
Throughout my corporate life, my body was getting sicker as my job was getting busier. As my job got busier, I had to pretend more that I was ok.
But I was TOO BUSY and TOO TIRED to do anything about it. My brain was TOO FULL to do a google search on why I had the myriad of symptoms that I had. And yet the constant hum of worry was with me all the time….why did everyone else seem to be smiling and skipping about the place, when I felt like Eeyore most days? Worrying about your health can be isolating.
Sorry – but it’s just down to you really
The truth is, that the only person who can decide to take care of your mental and physical health is you.
The catalyst for doing so, will be different for all of us. For some, it might just be that our health gets so bad that we can’t ignore it anymore. And that’s ok, as long as we still have positive options for recovery. This was my catalyst and I’ve forgiven myself for leaving it so long. I got the immediate medical help I needed, and, now I’m out of corporate life, I’ve taken even more time to understand and manage my illnesses.
So where does the love come in?
Well, that’s what we need after the medical emergency/catalyst for change.
Love, or rather self-love, is what we need every day after, to keep us taking the meds, eating the food, doing the exercise, accepting the help, breathing the fresh air, reading the books, talking it through, and finding the ‘happy’.
That’s what we need to make every day bearable…then manageable…then good.
And if you don’t like the term ‘self-love’ then pick one of these…
Self Like * Self Respect * Self Worth * Self Preservation
Me? I’m aiming high……..I want the soft skin, the gorgeous dress, and a relaxed and healthy body to put in it! Who’s with me?