Balancing Relationships with Loved Ones and Yourself
I’ve come to realise that women in their 20s and 30s tend to be incredibly busy: not only because they’re busy managing their careers and their family lives, but because they have so many commitments to many people outside of these aspects of lives. They’re usually taking care of their parents, their siblings, their partners, and their kids, before checking in with their friends: all while balancing a working life and other professional facets of their careers.
This causes us to neglect ourselves; we end up ignoring arguably the most important person in our lives. Moreover, the societal expectations make it very difficult for us to have a loving relationship with ourselves: messages of “you can be better” and “there’s something lacking” constantly bombard us, creating an overwhelmingly cold and frigid environment for us to develop love for ourselves. Combine this hostility with the time we fail to allocate to ourselves, and you have a recipe for disaster. When we don’t feel great about ourselves, and yet, are unable to rectify these feelings due to a lack of time, it feels like there’s no way out; that we just aren’t meant to be the best versions of ourselves.
Here, I urge you to make time for yourselves. It can be difficult for some, especially if you tend to put yourself second in your list of your priorities. Putting ourselves first can give rise to feelings of guilt and selfishness in some, but confronting these feelings is important: why do you feel guilty for putting yourself first? Why does being selfish feel inherently bad? These questions have no definite answer. Some of us grow up to put others first, but fail to understand that putting others first doesn’t require us to neglect ourselves. Some do it unknowingly. So here’s my encouragement: don’t hesitate to say, “it’s okay to be selfish” to yourself when need be. At times, we need to give ourselves some time. It’s difficult, for sure, when we are brought up with familial and career-driven values, but awareness of your self is essential in long-term self-care.
How can you do that, then? How do you ensure that you set aside some time for yourself without feeling like you’re forgoing important commitments or responsibilities?
1. Be Kind to Yourself
Set goals for yourself. Set short-term and long-term goals and work for them, but don’t let them drown you or restrict you. Often, in our goal-driven mindsets, we forget to be kind to ourselves. At the end of the day, we are all human, and we need to be easy on ourselves. Some days, we are ultra-productive, and on others we’re a little slow. A little delayed and a little tired. On these days put your rest as a priority. If you’re feeling tired of working then maybe you need a short break — a true break, where you completely ignore work — before you get back to it. Your productivity levels are bound to go up. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the expectations of those around you, take a breather. Text your family and your friend that you’re taking some time for yourself, and that perhaps you’ll be uncontactable for a few hours. Take this time to focus on yourself. Catch a movie you’ve been meaning to watch, or go to that donut shop you’ve been wanting to patronise. When you’ve spent time on yourself and on the sentiment of feeling okay and stable, you’ll be able to be more receptive to those around you.
2. Let Go of Perfectionism
Ouch, this one is painful. I get that. It’s really difficult, and even I struggle with this. Here’s the thing: perfectionism and mental health issues (like depression and anxiety) are correlated. That’s not to say that perfectionism will definitely lead you to have mental health issues, or that mental health issue will make you perfectionism worse, but it’s that if you tend to have both, one is bound to make the other worse.
Letting go of perfectionism requires a huge shift in your attitude and acceptance of yourself, and is linked to being kind to yourself. If you’re kind to yourself, you’ll understand that imperfections happen, that they’re part of us. Letting go of that little voice telling you to make every thing absolutely perfect requires a systemic and consistent reminder to yourself to unlearn this behaviour, and re-learn self-compassion. Instead of devoting your days to a never-ending list of to-dos done with specific precision, understand that some tasks require less effort from you, or can be pushed to another day. It takes conscious effort and a lot of time to overcome the notion of harsh perfectionism, but accepting ourselves — every single part of ourselves — is part of loving ourselves.
3. Assign Time to Yourself
It doesn’t have to be a great deal of time. Be it 20 minutes every day, or 2 hours weekly, be strict in scheduling time for yourself. Spend this time doing whatever you’d like: going for a walk, attending a class, lazing around and watching your favourite show. I think we grow up to have a mindset that equates down-time to laziness. If you’re sitting around, not getting the 17 things on your to-do list done then what are you doing with your day? Intrinsically, this is pretty unhealthy and causes a strain on our mental and physical health. So take this time and spend it with yourself.
A calm you equals to a calm life, and with a calmer life, you’ll be able to bring and give more to the people around you. Just remember that sometimes you need to take before you’re able to give unconditionally. Never forget that you’re worth your love and time!