Over the years, my kids have asked me to write a fair few permission slips to get them out of a PE class or whatever. But how often do we write ourselves a permission slip?
International Women’s Day is a good excuse for us to pause and take a long, hard look at how we, as women, treat ourselves. Let’s face it: we are Olympians at caring for others (after all, it’s what we’re hard-wired to do). But when it comes to looking after ourselves…well, we’re shirkers, aren’t we?
I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard from women the lengths they go to make sure their children are properly fed with a freshly-prepared, nutrition-packed meal – and yet they themselves make do with gobbling down whatever they can grab while standing up by the fridge. They don’t even feel they deserve to sit down at a table to eat – not when there’s so much to do and so many people to run around after. Or they’ll buy a piece of fish for everyone else in the family – but not them. No, they’ll make do.
Never mind me. You enjoy. I’m fine. I don’t need a proper meal. As long as there’s enough for you.
Well, I say, enough of making do. Enough of believing it’s an indulgence to have breakfast. Enough of believing it would be an unthinkable luxury and a dereliction of duty to take even five minutes to put your feet up.
We often struggle with giving ourselves permission to take time off because we’re just so good at running things for others – so we get locked in a cycle of putting others before ourselves. But here’s the thing: taking care of everyone’s needs before you take care of yourself and your own needs is at the root of burnout (and we all know what happens when we burn out – we can’t help anyone at all).
Let’s say it loud and clear: the very best thing you can do for yourself (and others!) is give yourself permission to prioritise self-care.
So, when you are tired, give yourself permission to rest, or to go to sleep. If you are hungry, eat. If you are feeling overwhelmed or sad or unappreciated, do something nice for yourself, whether it’s a hot bath or a solitary walk in nature…whatever makes you feel at peace. All those jobs you were trying to get on top of but didn’t manage to finish today will still be waiting for you tomorrow.
As women, we know how to sacrifice ourselves for our kids and go to the ends of the earth to make sure they’re well. How about turning some of that maternal love on ourselves? So, rather than constantly barking ‘no time to stop, you need to crack on, so much to do’ at ourselves, how about saying this to yourself: ‘you’ve been working so hard, sweetie. Sit down, relax, I’ll make you a cup of tea.’
If the thought of being kind to yourself seems terrifying and alien, just start with one little thing that you can promise yourself. Even if it’s just the simple act of sitting down to eat your lunch.
Because women need nourishing too and, in the immortal words of L’Oreál’s leading ladies, ‘you’re worth it’.