Just Go Left

Choosing Self-Care: Notes from a Recovering People-Pleaser

Healthy Living, Choosing JoyAshtenComment

I’m incredibly hard on myself. Don’t do something right the first time? Complete failure. Can’t write the perfectly worded blog post? Worst blogger ever. Can’t keep off those pesky 10 pounds because I really love pizza, hamburgers and burritos? BEACHED WHALE. There’s no grey area to my life: I’m either taking something on because I’m good at it, or I’m not going to try for fear of failure. I’m also a people-pleaser, which goes hand-in-hand with my fear of failure. Oh, and I also hate letting people down. Over the years, I’ve likened my people-pleasing ways to spinning eleventy billion plates in the air. Fine, breakable china, each with its own pattern of responsibility and expectation, spinning above my head and I can't let myself shatter a single one because I’m too scared of what happens when they all come crashing down.

I’m being incredibly honest here, and since these aren’t characteristics I take pride in, so I hope you’ll take this transparency in the Brene Brown spirit in which it’s intended.

When I started working with my health coach, Paige, back in February 2014 I mentioned this to her in passing. Like “yeah I have this problem with failure, being a people pleaser and spinning plates but it’s just me…so yeah about that whole pizza thing? How do we fix that?”

And she was like “whoa, whoa, whoa….you do all these things for other people but what do you do for yourself?”

And I was like “I don’t drop the plates and no one gets mad at me, duh.”

And Paige was like “allow me to introduce you to the concept of self-care.”

Self-care was hard for me at first. There was a vulnerability to it that I wasn’t sure I could accept: choosing me over people, places and things that didn’t align with taking care of me. Doing things that brought ME joy, not putting someone else’s joys before my own. At first, I thought if I could just add another arm I could keep spinning all my plates, and then add some “Ashten plates” to the mix. BOOM, everyone is happy.

Turns out, that takes a surgery no doctor will perform so I had to scrap that idea.

It’s taken a lot of time, but I’m slowly learning how to leave my phone at home when I take Gatsby on a walk, and how to leave my cozy bed and go to the gym at 6 a.m. because it makes the rest of my day feel happier. I’ve learned the plates I spin don’t have to shatter for me to care for myself: they can be carefully set down, one by one until my arms can rest and I can catch up on my DVR, get a manicure or read a book. Leaving an un-spun plate won’t ruin me but trying to spin all the plates all the time, surely will. I’ve started learning the difference between letting my relationships FEED my soul and carrying someone else’s plates and how to balance that idea very gently. This, surprisingly, as enriched my friendships far more than I ever thought possible. I've become more vulnerable, more empathetic and better able to show up for those I love, because I'm more in touch with myself. 

Most importantly: I’ve learned that I can’t be good to anyone else, if I’m not good to myself first.

There are days when I’m not good at this, like when Kyle and I booked our tickets to California for Christmas and I tried to pack two weeks’ worth of plans into eight days, and had to gently remind myself that I can come home anytime I want, and didn’t have to overdo it.

I may always be hard on myself, and I may always feel obligated to spin too many plates in the air, but I’ve learned that self-care is a conscious choice, one I need to make every day. 

Here are some other posts about self-care that I highly recommend:

The Importance of Self-Care for Intuitive Eating by Paige at Healthy Hits the Spot

Life Lived Thoughtfully Volume 2 by Erin at Everything with Love