Beating Yourself Up About Self-Care Is…Not Self-Care

I woke up this morning already feeling anxious. (Yay!)

My standard iPhone alarm is set for 6:45, but I prefer to get up a little before it and get some shit done. I am most productive in the mornings, and I like to ride that wave. It also means I can be at my coffee shop right when it opens. A positive of the pandemic is that most of the coffee shops on Main Street in Santa Monica are walk-up service right now (with a table at the doorway), so I can make walking Lucy in the morning a little less boring when it involves coffee.

But today I woke up right at 6:45, and it was well after 7 before I got moving, which made me feel behind the eight-ball already. I have a client at 10 and then a housekeeper coming for a deep clean, so I felt like I had a 10am deadline.

Seeing therapy clients (during a pandemic!) has really made me realize how important real and true self care is. I can’t be there for others if I can’t be there for myself.

Before 10am, I wanted to:

  • get coffee and walk Lucy (non negotiables)
  • and also go for a long walk!
  • or work out
  • call my aunt
  • grocery shop
  • get my 5 min of meditation in on the beach
  • shower and dry my hair
  • get some reading done for class
  • and maybe catch up on my client notes

(I know that if you have kids or an intense job, it might be hard to do any of those things in the morning. I get really lonely as a single person living alone sometimes but there is absolutely a certain freedom to it.)

There was literally no way I could do this all before 10, and I started beating myself up for not being able to do those things. But I’m listening to the book Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff and learning so much about the weight of our negative self-talk.

It’s helping me be a little more present. On a run the other day, for example, I really noticed my negative self-talk, comparing myself to a younger, faster me who could run much more easily.

Meanwhile…I was out running. In a pretty gorgeous place. But I could have been anywhere because I was so in my head. We carry emotions in our body, and no wonder running feels hard if I’m carrying that weight of comparison. I reminded myself I don’t have to run, I get to run, and I reminded myself how much more enjoyable the run would be, if I could just be present through the shitty first 15 minutes or so AND when it felt good.

And I employed that this morning: a short workout is better than nothing, meditation is non-negotiable, I can order groceries online, I can compromise with myself by sitting outside on a park that looks at the ocean rather than on the actual beach (I know this last part sounds silly but it did save me a good 10 minutes when I was feeling stressed about time.)

Self-care is realizing that something is better than nothing. Self-care is not doing one of these things and beating yourself for not doing them all—or trying to race through a list of things meant to take care of yourself while not at all being present.

Self-care is not writing a post like this and talking yourself out of posting it because you think it feels silly in the scheme of things. Are these things I’m stressing out about inconsequential in the grand scheme of things? Absolutely—but this is just an example of how the self-talk about the small things can begin snowballing to the bigger things.

Self-care is writing a post like this even though it wasn’t on your little list of things you should be doing this morning to take care of yourself. It just felt good to write this this morning, and like with anything I write, if it helps one person a little bit, even better. Self-care is not doing all the things you know how to do to optimize this post but you hate doing.

What’s one thing you’re doing today to take care of yourself? Not because you feel like you should—but because you know it will just bring you a little more joy today?

3 comments on “Beating Yourself Up About Self-Care Is…Not Self-Care

  1. Noga

    Would you mind writing in more detail about your career change? I daydream about becoming a therapist. For example, how long did it take you, were you in school full time, what degree/certification did you receive, do you now need to train for a while or are you already certified to receive clients, etc. Also, I am quite opinionated and I worry that I will not be able to offer perspective free of personal views or quiet judgement. Was that something that received attention in your program? Do you feel that you can train yourself to leave your own judgement of what is right for the person in front of you out the door?

    1. Theodora Blanchfield Post author

      Hi! Yes, would love to write more and I’m working on writing a whole bunch of stuff right now so let me know if you have any other questions but to answer these in short:
      – my program takes about two years
      – I’m about 1.5 years in (but I will take a little longer than two years, so I have about 10 months to go)
      – I will graduate with an MA in Clinical Psychology, and be licensed as an LMFT (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist) + LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor.) I’m doing LPCC because it’s easier to transfer if I were to move out of CA, and with my family being on the east coast, I want to leave that possibility open.
      – So, I am already able to see clients, but I will not be licensed for quite some time. You need 3,000 hours (a combo of seeing clients + admin stuff, like writing up client notes, training, supervision) to be licensed. For context, I have 150ish right now 🙂 Until then, I work under the supervision of someone else’s license. But supervision means that we talk about our clients in groups, not that someone is in the room supervising me. (Which would be terrifying?) When I graduate, I will be an associate, so AMFT/APCC.
      – I am in school full-time. My first year, I was able to still work but right now between seeing clients and classes, I’m not working.

      So as for the opinionated stuff: I’m not a super super opinionated person, I don’t think. With a background as a journalist, I like to think I have always been pretty good at seeing both sides of things. And once I am seeing a client and seeing either why they are acting a certain way or allowing someone in their lives who might not seem like the healthiest for them, once I understand what’s happened in their lives a little more, it’s easier to see *why* they are doing something that *I* might not see as a good choice—BUT my circumstances are not their circumstances.

      They do teach us that sometimes we *will* fuck up—that sometimes we *will* project our shit unconsciously onto someone. We’re human. And the reason for all this supervision pre-licensure is to work through all of that.

      Happy to answer any other questions!!

  2. David Dack

    The best way to care about urself is actually to care for yourself. Beating yourself over things you have no control over is an exercise in futility. Heck, it might make things worse. That’s how things spiral out of control anyway.

    Thank you Theodora for the nice writing. Keep up the good work


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