As a young girl, my grandfather would always tell me, “If you don’t love yourself, no one else will.” Therefore, I proclaimed to have self-love when in actuality I loved all that I was able to provide other people: my ability to organize, strategize, educate, and get stuff done.
I struggled to truly love myself as the concept of love (unconditional love) was quite foreign. This revelation was not revealed until my thirties when I stared midlife in the face.
I had spent quite a bit of my twenties and thirties chasing the “dream.” I got married to a great man, had a handsome son then nine years later we were blessed with another amazing son, and checked off several boxes along my career path. Things were going well, so I thought. I was a supportive wife, super mom, and bomb leader.
Then, one day I found myself drowning in grief, sorrow, embarrassment, resentment, and a host of other uncomfortable emotions. All the things I had worked so hard to run from by busying myself hit me like an unloading dump truck. Talk about uncomfortable. After stewing for a bit, I knew I had to do something different, but couldn’t quite figure out what that was. All I knew at that moment and the days that followed was that I hated feeling so broken and out of touch with myself.
So, I decided to put a pin in many aspects of my life so that I could focus on becoming more whole. I realized I was wandering throughout life with no clear purpose or vision for myself. I was living the life that made others look and assume many things were going well (which they were and still are), but that was the problem. I was doing things for others and lost sight of myself along the way.
You know, we as mothers often give our all to everything and often forget to carve out a designated time for ourselves. We care for the kids, love our partner, kill it at work, support the committees at church and catch up with the girls when time allows. We have been conditioned to put everyone and everything before ourselves and give ourselves the leftover minutes at the end of a long day. The problem here is that by the time the day ends, we are too tired and simply want to do nothing but give the brain a break.
Everyone’s brain break looks different. You might find yourself scrolling social, binge-watching a series, reading gossip blogs, or something else. All you know is that at the end of a day of work, kids, partner, faith, and friends you are tired. Being aware that you are tired is a good sign. This sign means you are still present with yourself on some level.
Then one day it hits you. You realize you have arrived at a place in your life and you don’t even know your likes, dislikes, interests, etc. You realize you have no idea who you are. You conclude that you have been so consumed with it all that your true interests are no longer.
This was me almost exactly. My life had become so routine that I couldn’t remember any details from the previous week, day, or hour. It was sad, y'all. I was just lost in the monotony of it all. But then, I had an epiphany, and I started to awaken to the idea that I needed more self-care and self-love. These ideas ultimately meant I needed more self-work.
Let’s quickly break down the three…
- Self-care is the “act of taking care of yourself physically and mentally.” For example, you notice you are a bit more irritable and decide you will take a walk after work instead of spending 20 minutes on the couch scrolling social media. Another example is eating a healthy meal instead of the gourmet pizza with extra garlic butter sauce.
- Slightly different from self-care, self-love is cultivating an unapologetic love for yourself that is steeped in acceptance and gratitude toward your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual growth. So you work to affirm yourself instead of negative self-talk, you prioritize yourself and set boundaries that include “yes” and “no.” Additionally, you understand that you are human and show yourself compassion as we all make mistakes and try our best. Self-love is the internal work that is often more difficult as it requires you to face the emotions, situations, and experiences you may have been working to suppress. (This is where I was falling short.)
- The art of self-work combines the two. Self-work involves prioritizing your mental and physical needs while also developing the wherewithal to dig deeper into your beliefs, values, triggers, etc. Self-work is a continuous process of lovingly accepting yourself and understanding why you make the decisions you make. Self-work couples the reflection and improvement components of self-love with the feel-good parts of “self-care.”
For me, I needed to work on it all! I was inconsistently exercising, consuming unhealthy meals (sometimes still do), thinking about how I was losing at life, and on and on. I needed a serious reawakening. One that would put me on a path to being more whole and tapping into my greatest potential. I needed to love myself more. I needed to prioritize myself more. I needed to trust myself more. I needed to set boundaries and get comfortable with saying “no” when I needed to. I needed to forgive myself for the mistakes that I was making. I needed more self-work. So, I put my phone down and started to affirm my beauty, goodness, kindness, intelligence, worth, value, myself, my WHOLE self (flaws and all). Now, I say, I needed to do these things, and I still do! This is a continuous process as I am sure that if I stop doing the internal and external work, I will revert to being stuck on the wheel again.
As mothers, it is easy to get caught in the routine of caring for everyone else. It is difficult to find another 30 minutes let alone an hour or more to devote to self. Our kids and families need so much time. Practicing self-awareness and acceptance strategies has become the perfect marriage for me. The two partners work side-by-side. Now that I am consistently doing more of both, I can find the moments to breathe and express sheer gratification for the opportunity to be.
7 Ways to Create the Perfect Marriage with Yourself and Stick with It
I recommend getting a journal for your self-love time. You don’t have to write in it every day but may find that it is helpful to write down what you are thinking about and doing for yourself. This also helps you stay accountable to yourself. Once you have a journal skip the first 2-3 pages before beginning this activity. We will come back and fill the first 2-3 pages with something else.
- Examine your current schedule – Skip ahead in your journal to page 3 or 4. Title the page, My December 21, 2020 Schedule. One way to do this is by writing down everything you did yesterday. Try to pair the hour as well. Once you have written everything you can remember about yesterday, go back and highlight the times you spent with yourself. Don’t include necessities like shower, eat, use the restroom, or grocery shop. Time out for counting the bathroom time or time devoted to bare necessities as self-care time.
- Determine how much time you are currently devoting to yourself – Total the amount of time you spent alone yesterday. Use this tiered approached to determine how much time you need to carve out starting tomorrow. If you found…
- 0-30 minutes in your schedule yesterday, try to find an additional 15-30 minutes of alone time
- 30-45 minutes in your schedule try to find another 15-30 minutes to add to what you did yesterday that
- 45 minutes to an hour in your schedule yesterday, examine how you are currently spending the hour. Are you doing things to work on getting to better know yourself? Do you need additional time to work on loving yourself more? If so, add the time you think you need and be committed to doing the self-work.
- Identify the time of day that you will devote to yourself. I recommend selecting the morning, midday, or bursts of 10 minutes or so throughout the day to get in more time for yourself. I only recommend bursts for those who may not live with a partner and may not be able to secure someone to take on other responsibilities like caring for the kids, housework, etc.
3. Make a small promise to yourself and write it as a goal. For example, you could write, “For the next 30 days, I promise Talesha (include your name) I will practice gratitude and self-acceptance by ______. Write your goal on page 1 of your journal. You can continue to use this space to refine your goal each cycle.
4. Make it official by adding the designated time to an electronic calendar with a reminder. You could use your phone, smart home device, etc. When you add this selection to your calendar, be sure to set the reminder for 31 consecutive days. You will also want to share your time frame with your partner and let your partner know that during that time, you are not available to do other things, answer questions, help solve household problems, etc. You need a total unplugged moment.
5. Keep the promise to yourself. Life is busy and sometimes there are emergencies. Allow yourself some grace to move your designated time to a different time within the same day. If you must skip the day, that is ok. Check-in with yourself in the mirror and express gratitude and acceptance of yourself.
6. Host a celebration for yourself on the 31st day. This is to celebrate the commitment you have made to yourself. Steep a cup of your favorite Mothering Tea and add some bubbly (alcoholic or nonalcoholic). As you celebrate yourself, read the notes you have written yourself. See the growth you have made within one month. Before you have your last sip, be sure to repeat steps 2-6 to keep the cycle going.
7. Share your progress with Mothering Tea. Send an email, make an Instagram post about your progress and tag us, or simply share your progress with a mom. By sharing your story you can help other moms make the hard decision to focus on themselves a bit more.
By utilizing this practice you will learn to remain committed to yourself just as we do in marriage. Marriage is about commitment and consistently incorporating self-care and self-love practices into your daily routine is the marriage you need most. It may seem a bit weird at first as you may not be used to spending time thinking about yourself or doing what you want, but the rewards will be plentiful, and you will start to see the holes within you being filled.
You were meant to live a life full of passion, love, and joy. Simply put, prioritize yourself and look within. That new purse, pair of shoes, bigger home, upgraded car, or diamond earrings won’t provide you with what you are looking for. Now, don’t get me wrong, we all love a new ____ (you fill in the blank), but the magic isn’t there. The magic is within.
You deserve more minutes to breathe, be, reflect, act, and unapologetically express love for yourself.
You do not have to do this alone. Join the Mothering Tea Instagram and Facebook, communities. We are here to support you and witness the beauty that is birthed through this self-love practice.