This is a question I find myself pondering a good amount. It’s a term that has become quite trendy these days, but what does it really mean? As I cope through stress, I find myself pouring that extra glass of wine (that I really don’t want), fighting with myself not to pull in to Dunkin Donuts and order my favorite chocolate frosted doughnut (that I know I will regret eating in about fifteen minutes), and saying yes to things I really don’t want to do because I didn’t even think about it. This isn’t every day, but certainly common on stressful days.
If you read any advice column or success story it almost always involves the advice of “showing up for yourself”, but they really don’t talk about what that means or how to get there. How do we get off of automatic pilot and become more mindful and deliberate, especially during stressful periods? Digging into this, I found that the first step involves acknowledging ourselves honestly and without judgment. We must give ourselves permission to be exactly where we are in the exact moment so that we can accept ourselves and begin to work towards change. In other words, we need to slow down and take the time to think about what is really going on in our lives and the person we have become.
Slowing down and examining our lives allows us to see where change needs to be made. This will look different for everyone. For me, I noticed that my biggest struggle was with food. I noticed that I was eating to feel better, even if it was just for a moment. Most of the time, I wasn’t physically hungry – just wanting a relief from whatever discomfort I was feeling at the time. I asked myself, how do I “show up” for myself and stop this habit? I decided that I needed to exam the cause of my stress and discomfort, then eliminate any of it that is within my power to do so. I realized that “showing up” for myself meant making some hard changes in my life that I had been avoiding.
I also realized that it would be impossible to eliminate all cause of stress and discomfort. So, I needed to find a healthier way to cope. I started paying attention to what makes me feel relaxed and happy. Once I learned this about myself, I began trying to incorporate more of it into my daily schedule. I joined a spin class and decided to get back to yoga. Doing this isn’t as easy as it sounds because it involves carving out time in my day, and giving up other things to make way. Again, this meant making some hard changes.
I started paying attention to how I felt around the people in my life. I slowed down and noticed how I feel in their presence. Do they drain the energy from me, or do I feel light and refreshed after being with them? I knew that I needed to distance myself from those that drain me. This was and still is the most challenging part of self-care for me.
I learned that “showing up” means doing what is hard FOR YOURSELF!!! It’s so much easier to do hard things for other people, but not so much for ourselves. It feels justified for others, but not ourselves. We feel we are behaving selfishly and are unworthy, but it’s simply not true. We need to stop telling ourselves these lies, and remind ourselves that unless we show up for ourselves, we cannot fully show up for anyone or anything else either.