This morning I kicked off my 8 Weeks to Awesome weight loss challenge. As I was creating the meal plan printable for the week, I did a quick google search to find common ways my participants could reward themselves for meeting their goals.
And the more I read, the more annoyed I got. At the top of the list were things like bubble bath, enjoy your lunch outdoors, call a friend, go to bed early, read a book, and shave your legs and put on clean sheets.
That last one may have made me throw up a little.
Really? Is this what the world has come to? Are our priorities so out of balance that we use shaving our legs as a dangling carrot? No wonder I can’t lose weight! How is the promise of shaved legs going to get me through an ice cream craving or nudge me out the door when I don’t really want to go on my run?
I’m the mother to six children. Sometimes I go days without exercising, eating a meal while sitting down, or even taking a shower. Bubble baths and cleans sheets are not rewards for doing something hard. Bubble baths and clean sheets are things I deserve to have in my life because I’m a human being and have every right to feel fresh.
Do you know what else isn’t a reward? Clothing that fits. My closet is full of clothing that I hate. I don’t wear them but I won’t get rid of them. And I can’t replace them because I have them and that would be a waste of money. I keep my crappy, frumpy clothes “just in case”. Just in case what?? Just in case my feeling fat and ugly is going to serve me well one day? Just in case the world would be a better place by my feeling like a whale in dirty workout clothes?
Exercise? Also, not a reward. I love to run, but it’s hard. It’s work.
Grocery shopping without the kids? Hell, no! NOT a freaking reward! In fact, there is no context in which a mother of six should say “kid free time” is a “reward”. Kid free time is something I need to be able to put together a coherent thought, not a way to treat myself when I’ve hit my exercise goal for the week.
I’m sorry. No. This has to stop.
I am a beautiful, creative, powerful, and dynamic being. These so-called “rewards” are not things that I use to treat myself when earn it. These are things I need to be incorporating into my daily life because I deserve to feel beautiful, confident, creative, and powerful! Sure, it would be nice if I could feel that way on a regular basis without any prompting, but life is hard and sometimes I need a little external stimuli to remind me of how awesome I am.
No one should have to “earn” the right to feel good about themselves. I have battled depression, anxiety, and self-loathing for much of my adult life. There are times when it’s easy to chase those negative thoughts away and there are times when it’s almost impossible. I’m not going to pretend that I have a magic formula for mental health, but I do know it’s a lot easier to confront and defeat the downward spiral when I’ve done my hair and put on my favorite lipstick.
Every day I see women who ignore their own needs for months and years on end, then wonder why they feel worn out and ready to give up on life. And I’m no different! We all carry the weight of the world on our shoulders then wonder why we can’t sleep or why we find comfort in a pint of ice cream. We continually put ourselves last, and then wonder why everyone else in our lives ignores us. We dangle the promise of buying ourselves a bouquet of flowers if we reach our weight loss goals, and then wonder why we can’t seem to keep our heads out of the trough.
We are not doing anyone any favors by playing small, especially not ourselves. And I am never going to be the woman I really want to be if I don’t treat myself as if I’m already her. A small bowl of my favorite ice cream, or pretty flowers, or an inexpensive outfit that makes me feel pretty aren’t the carrots I need to dangle in front of me to reach my goals. Those are the things I need to give me strength to keep chasing that carrot, even when I’m tired and the journey seems too hard.
Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s not something you only get when you’ve crossed everything off your to-do list or have been “good” all day long.
Women need to stop prioritizing everything else above our own health and emotional well-being. This life isn’t a game of “last martyr standing”. We don’t win a price for neglecting ourselves. We can take care of ourselves without neglecting the important things and people in our life. We can surround ourselves with beauty and people that uplift us without “earning” it.