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Self-Care 101: Making Yourself a Priority Instead of an Afterthought

I thought making others happy would make me happy. Turned out, that wasn't true. I needed to find my balance, and you need to find yours, too.

Self-care is a term that has been popping up more and more as we as a society try to balance our mind, bodies, and souls in an age where technology has the forefront and everything is go-go-go.

I first heard the term when I began seeing a counselor to help with my anxiety; as we spoke, he asked me what I was doing “for me.” Every week, we took a moment to discuss how I was treating myself and what I was treating myself to.

It took some time for me to realize that I wasn’t making myself a priority the way I should have.

Instead, I was exerting all my time and energy into a job I didn’t like and I was using the left-over bits of energy to take care of myself when everything was said and done.

That method left me feeling exhausted because I was constantly trying to do everything I could to make myself happy without really thinking about what it was that I was doing.

I thought having a “normal” full-time job where I could try to climb the corporate ladder would make me feel more like an adult, and make me feel like I was succeeding.

[Tweet “I thought having a “normal” job climbing the corporate ladder would make me feel like an adult.”]

In my social life, I tried to be active and meet up with friends constantly to maintain that bubble of friendship we all had in college when we live with our closest friends. I was constantly texting, setting up phone and Skype dates, and meeting friends after work or on weekends to socialize.

For someone who is a bit more introverted than she originally realized, I quickly became burnt out because my job involved me talking on the phone all day as well.

When I started seeing a counselor and talking about all the stress and anxiety I felt, I slowly began to realize that I was doing everything I could do make others happy because I thought that was how I would find happiness.

Don’t get me wrong, I find great joy in helping others and being a supportive friend. But, I also learned that I needed to be okay with saying “no” to things.

So, I began my journey of “self-care” with trial and error.

At first, my definition of self-care was going straight home after work rather than staying and socializing with my coworkers (because all we ended up talking about was work anyway), or spending Friday nights watching Netflix and eating homemade macaroni and cheese.

Slowly, I started asking myself “what am I interested in?” and “what do I want to do?”

Eventually, I learned that I liked taking yoga classes and walking in the park while listening to music. I also enjoyed spending time with friends in settings other than bars, and started to go to more museums. I eventually learned what it was that made me feel either more wholly happy, uplifted from a funk, or happy and inspired.

Some days, I need to say “no” when a friend invites me to a social gathering or out for dinner, and other days I need to say “yes” to an evening of yoga and Netflix. Sometimes, I have to make myself text every friend I have in the city because I really want to hang out with a friend but am feeling shy about reaching out.

Most of all, I say “yes” and “no” to the things I want to without feeling guilty about not being “fun enough” because I stayed in on a Saturday night or for “being lazy” by spending Sunday morning reading in bed with a mug of tea.

[Tweet “Self-care is about listening to your own set of needs and wants.”]

Self-care is about listening to your own set of needs and wants.

Sometimes, I want to chill out and watch a movie because I can’t imagine talking to one more person, and sometimes I want to be socializing with a friend but I haven’t been invited out, so I encourage myself to just pick up my phone and make a plan.

With figuring out what my self-care definition is, I’ve also learned to step outside my comfort zone.

For example, I really love museums but rarely go because I don’t want to go alone and my friends often aren’t interested in the exhibit that’s showing. I was expressing my desire to go to the museum to a friend of mine who had lived abroad for a year and she told me to just go. She relayed how she struggled making friends in a foreign country and had to count on herself sometimes to be her own friend.

As silly as it sounded, I realized I needed to be my own friend and be my own date to the museum if I wanted to go. And I went.

I went to the art museum on the day of my 25th birthday and enjoyed it more than I ever had before because I got to wander around my favorite paintings, stick to my own schedule, and contemplate my life. It was rejuvenating and satisfying—I was proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and happy that I did.

Whether you define “self-care” for yourself as running a few nights each week after work or practicing your painting skills with watercolors on the weekend, it’s important to figure out what makes you happy for you.

[Tweet “It’s important to figure out what makes you happy for you.”]

Self-care doesn’t have any expectations, it has no need of worrying about anyone else, and serves only to bring you peace, calm, rest, and joy.

It doesn’t have to be something that you do twice a year like visiting the dentist. You just need to find an activity that you like, just because you like it, not because it is the latest trend or because everyone in your family has done it before you.

Just think about what you really want to do, and go out and do it. (Or stay in and do it!)

And as a fun bonus, be sure to check out this 30 Day Self-Care Challenge

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About the Author

Marina Crouse

With a B.A. in French and an MFA in Creative Writing, Marina is a Writing Coach and copywriter helping creatives bring their ideas to the page. In her free time, you'll find her reading, cooking, traveling, or binge-watching sitcoms on Netflix.