A recurrent theme in my life is feeling guilty for choosing myself, for making myself my priority. It’s something that I’m working on. Being such a giver, a helper at heart, I find it hard to choose myself over other people. Can you relate? I have a long history of putting other people’s needs before my own, which, I’m the first to admit continues to this day in certain areas of my life. For example, I will drop everything to help someone in need instead of sticking to my plans for the day. And that’s fine; it’s a nice character trait I’m told. However, doing that and neglecting my plans to go and do some exercise or cook a healthy meal, that’s not so OK.
I’ve finally learned on this journey called life – life with hypermobility – there is a time and a place for choosing me. There is a time and a place for being self-focused, selfish, self-indulgent – call it what you will – it’s actually self-care! There is a time for it, my friends. That time, for me, needs to be a lot of the time. This need became extremely apparent in 2014 when I decided to quit my helping job and finally help myself.
In the beginning, I felt so guilty for leaving that job. For leaving my clients. For abandoning people. Even today I still carry a little bit of that guilt with me (sorry guys). But over time it is lessening, and I realise that it is OK to focus on me. It is OK to make sure I am happy, healthy and well (as well as I can be). It’s actually good. Woah! It’s good! I have really started to learn that you can only help others when your tank is full. You cannot give of yourself when there is nothing left to give. And how do we fill up the tank? Well, that’s different for everyone.
Only the other day was I talking about this with a friend who is married, with two children and trying to get to the gym to work out as often as possible. We came to the conclusion that it’s important for us to look after ourselves because
a) we deserve it;
b) if we don’t look after ourselves we’re not much good to anyone else; and
c) it sends a good message to younger generations (in her case, her children) that looking after yourself is important. It instils a sense of respect for ourselves and our bodies.
That is what I had realised about myself. I hadn’t been doing that for many many years. I hadn’t been respecting myself or my body. Gosh, I hadn’t even been listening to my body, unless it was SCREAMING at me to stop because I was in so much pain. I always joke that I learn things the hard way… It’s probably not so much of a joke and more just my personality.
So now that I have learned that lesson, I’m more at peace with the idea of choosing myself because choosing myself actually makes me feel better!!! All those years I thought it would make me feel worse, that I would feel guilty for focusing on myself AND guilty for neglecting my clients – double guilt! But actually, it hasn’t turned out that way. I have proved my own theory wrong. Go me!
So prioritising me looks like: going to the gym, doing my physio exercises and eating well… But it also means getting enough sleep, meditation, practising mindfulness… and taking some time out once a week for “me time”.
What can you do this week to make yourself & your health your priority?
Michelle is a Senior Occupational Therapist working solely with adults with hypermobility and related conditions. Michelle is the owner of Hypermobility Connect, an online platform for people with hypermobility to connect with resources, health professionals & each other. Michelle practices OT in her private practice and provides education to health professionals relating to hypermobility conditions.