Self Care is Not Selfish
According to Entrepreneur in Residence, Dr. Lauren Hazzouri, learning to take care of yourself is your most important responsibility.
We women are socialized caretakers. Traditionally, we have prided ourselves on self-sacrifice, the well-learned hallmark of motherhood and wifedom. In recent decades we have increased our healthy lifestyle patterns; however, we continue to place caring for others above caring for ourselves. Even for the healthiest of us, self-care remains a foreign concept. Three years ago, I was in the same spot. My practice was thriving. And, for all intents and purposes, my recipe for living was working! I looked good. I felt good. I was at the top of my game—at work and at home. I wasn’t perfect, but perfect was no longer my goal.
Much of what I was learning and reading made sense and fit into my established regimen for becoming my best self. That said, when it came to the concept of self-love and self-responsibility, I struggled. While I liked myself—if I had met myself at a cocktail party, I would have wanted to be my friend—I couldn’t wrap my head around ‘self-love’. And while I was a responsible person—for others and in life—I still couldn’t conceive that I was my responsibility, too. Because I didn’t know where to begin in my quest for self-responsibility and self-love, I thought I would start by treating myself much the same way I treat my number one responsibility and the love of my life—my daughter, Ava.
I knew if I could feel about me, the way I feel about her, my goals would be met. I made a decision to “fake it, ’til I felt it”. I started by only accepting for me that which I would accept for her. I began nurturing me, much the same way I nurture her. I remember having the conscious thought, “Would this be okay for Ava?” in an effort to observe the pact I made with myself—if it wasn’t okay for Ava, then it wasn’t going to be okay for me, either. It was eye-opening! I quickly realized that while I liked many things about me, I had never held myself in high regard. I had never been my number one. So, how do you start truly loving and caring for yourself? In the small daily decisions—and the major life decisions, too—ask yourself, “Would this be okay for X?” If the answer is yes, carry on. If the answer is no, it’s not okay for you either.
What did you enjoy as a child? Did you enjoy making art, dancing, playing sports? Get creative! Set time aside. Enroll in a class to ensure that for one hour a week you can get lost in you.
Use the good towels, the fine china. Spend the extra several dollars on the surf and turf, if you so desire. Light the candles on the dining room table when you’re eating home alone. You are special!
Relax! Skip off to your favorite tree at the local park for 10 minutes, where you can sit, breathe and be without distractions from the outside world. Scurry to your bedroom for a nap on the weekend. Take a bath, and use the bubbles! You’re worth it.
Allow yourself to be device-free during mealtimes and for 1-2 hours before bedtime. This will help you to eat intuitively and be present and mindful.
Don’t be shy! Get a facial, a massage, a mani-pedi. You deserve it!
Take an impromptu road trip. Wear the yellow patent leather pumps! Life is a participation sport. Get in there!
Continue to build character by practicing accountability, responsibility, honesty and integrity. Continue to nurture all aspects of self: physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual. Work to become your best self. It feels good to live well! You can be confident in many areas—your skill-sets, your appearance, your ability as a tennis player—and still have very low self-esteem. Confidence is a feeling of self-assurance that arises from appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities, while self-esteem is confidence in one’s own worth or value. Increasing your self-esteem by consistently treating yourself with care, love and respect leads to feeling and living your value, as is evidenced in my case.
Today, Ava is 11-years old, my practice is going well, and I’m proud to have recently launched drlaurenhazzouri.com—the next right step on my mission to help teen girls and young adult women learn to be brave. I continue to practice what I preach. Let me provide an example: Last week Ava was at dance class. I had an hour before I had to be to the dance studio for pick-up. I came home from work and immediately put chicken for myself on the grill. While the chicken was cooking, I made a great salad, set the dining room table (I no longer save the dining room for holidays) and lit the tapers just for me. As I was taking my chicken from the grill, my phone rang—I looked at the phone and saw it was my best friend, Sue. My former self would have taken the chicken from the grill, placed the dish on the counter and picked up the phone, saying, “Sue, Do you need me?” As she went into her reasons for calling, I would have blown out the candles and listened intently, making sure her needs were met.
By the end of the call, it would have been time to pick up Ava from dance. I would have been to the studio on time for Ava, brought her home, fed her my chicken and taken her upstairs for her bedtime routine. Sue’s needs would have been met. Ava’s needs would have been met, but what about my needs? What messages was I sending to myself? To those around me? Today, my immediate thoughts upon noticing the call go straight to: “What would I do if I was taking Ava’s dinner off the grill? If Ava was ready to be seated at the dining room table, would I take the call? Would I put Sue before Ava?” The answers to those questions provided clarity, as they always do. In turn, I switched my phone to "do not disturb," put on my playlist, sat at the dining room table and provided myself time to breathe and just be.
Today I create the same boundary, a cushion of sorts, around me and my time that I have always very naturally provided around Ava and my time with her. In addition, I schedule times in my week to nurture my soul, which brings me to another example of learning to value myself like I value Ava. Last friday, I was off to an exercise class, when the thought crossed my mind, “Instead of wasting this hour, Lauren, you should really go home and clean the hardwood floors. They could use a dusting.” My next thought was, “Would I ask Ava to miss dance after a long school week to dust the hardwood? Would that be okay for Ava?” I giggled at my old, stubborn thinking, as I walked into the gym to kick-box the hour away. While it took time, in caring for Ava, I learned to care for me, and in caring for me, I began to love me like I love her. In turn, I hold myself in high regard. I am my number one! When we care for ourselves, we communicate to ourselves and to others that we have value. In the words of Gloria Steinem, “Self-esteem isn’t everything; it’s just that there’s nothing without it." Take my cue: Hold yourself in high regard. You’re number one!
For more from Dr. Lauren Hazzouri, check out her recent posts, Reduce Stress and Increase Resilience, It’s Time to Learn How to Live and How to Develop Your Character—or visit her online at drlaurenhazzouri.com.