That bloody oxygen mask

In the two years or so since I started my crazy journey of self exploration, I must have read hundreds of articles, blog posts and books about putting your own oxygen mask on first, prioritising self-care, filling yourself up first, looking after yourself, making time for “me time” blah, blah. And I get it – really I do! At an intellectual level I completely understand that it is impossible to continually give your power away in service of others without replenishing your stocks. I have an A-level in physics goddamnit, I know about the law of conservation of energy!

However, whilst I know that giving until you crash is counterproductive, I regularly fail to even locate my own mask, let alone put it on. I seem to be stumbling about inhaling the  somewhat stale air expired by all those whose oxygen masks I have lovingly secured. And even although I know that this leaves me depleted, run down and tetchy, somehow I don’t seem to be able to consistently prioritise my own self care.

Of course, when you are neglecting your own needs, all of your relationships suffer. Have you ever noticed that the days when you are running on emotional empty are the days where the kids are at their most monstrous, or you have an argument with you partner over whose turn it is to take the rubbish out, or you think that  you really might stick pins in the eyes of that woman in the office? Moods are contagious and you and I are creating this reality by not acknowledging that our needs are important too.

Whilst this seems totally obvious to me now, up until very recently I really didn’t understand this. I had reached the conclusion that there was something wrong with me, that I was not capable of being happy, that I was unable to really connect with the important people in my life because I was fundamentally broken. But do you know what – that’s bollocks! I had just completely lost sight of the fact that I am a real person with needs, not an automated giving machine, and I realised that I was expending no energy whatsoever on making sure my own oxygen mask was tight-fitting. I was giving all of my power away with no attempt to re-charge.

The reasons why I, and many women, give until we are depleted are complex and deep-seated. Whilst we might like to think we are giving out of the genuine goodness of our hearts, this is usually not the case. We are over-giving because we are conditioned to believe that giving makes us a good person: the more you give the better a person you will be. Our giving is an element of external approval seeking and becomes a habit.  Stopping to take time for yourself, to really connect with what you need to feel full and powerful and making it happen feels selfish because fundamentally you feel that you are not worthy, that somehow you don’t deserve it.

But you do! Really you do. Your best self is your best gift, and being your best self requires your attention.

Take ten minutes and breathe. What would really rev up your power? What do you really need? Figuring out what you really need is a whole other post, but listen carefully and you will get some idea. It doesn’t have to be a day lounging in a spa, nice though that may be. Do you need to take time to eat well or do some exercise? Do you need a night out with the girls? Do you need to make time to have sex, with your partner or alone. Do you just need half an hour and a cup of tea? Do you need to ditch your soul-sucking job/partner/friend? The answers will come and you owe yourself the energy to make it happen.

Giving is a good thing – it makes us feel good, connects us to people and makes for a better world. Martyrdom however, is not.  Self care is a choice that those in your life will thank you for.

Attempting to untie myself from the burning stake,

Claire x

Do you take time to look after yourself? Do you struggle to make the time, even although you know you will feel better if you take some time for you? What things help you re-charge? Comment below.