Is self-worth the key to self-care?

I have been talking on self-care at our district for over a year now. I started included a section on the importance of boundaries at some point… I realized without boundaries and being able to say no, self-care is not ever a reality. All of these ideas came together as I read an article written by Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, “We Don’t Need Self-Care, We Need Boundaries.” She put into words what I had been thinking. I now use parts of her article in my presentations and it is eye-opening for so many about how pedicures and spa days really aren’t what self-care is.

During my doctoral work, I had the privilege of studying under Dr. Jane E. Myers. She was not only my professor and dissertation chair, but she was also my mentor. Her work on wellness and the model she developed with her husband Dr. Thomas Sweeney, The Indivisible-Self: An Evidenced Based Model of Wellness, is grounded in theory from Alfred Adler (my favorite theorist of all time).  I not only used the model in my dissertation but also took a course on wellness with her one summer. This course informed my work as a counselor, but also continued to stick in my mind as I  constantly strive to find balance in my life.

I decided to use the model in my presentations on self-care because I found it important to let people know there is more to taking care of ourselves than diet and exercise (side note… I hate the use of these terms… I prefer fueling our body and being active). As I have introduced the model, others seem to enjoy the variety of ways we can work on being holistically well.

Yesterday as I was talking with staff at a middle school we had the opportunity to really dive into the idea of balance, boundaries, and self-care. As I was going through the different aspects of the wellness model something really hit me in a new way. I was discussing the coping self and explaining how self-worth is an important part of wellness… and at that moment it occurred to me… without a positive sense of self, I am not sure how much self-care is possible… boundaries and balance seem impossible.

Without a positive view of oneself, it is hard to tell others no and say yes to ourselves. It is near impossible to not base our sense of worth on how others respond to us if we do not value who we are. If our self-worth is based on what we do and not who we are, we will base all our actions on what we do… and it will never be enough… and we will never feel like we have a right to take time for ourselves.

The basis of self-care is feeling like we are enough and we are of enough value to be made a priority. So often we want others to make us feel valued… we look to our job, to friends, to significant others, or our children… we put everyone’s needs before ours because we want them to know we value them and yet by not doing the same for our needs, we consciously or not, are saying we don’t value ourselves… we don’t see our worth.

Admitting I did not value myself was one of the hardest things I ever did. I had to admit what I spent 30 years doing was not working and the only thing that would help was learning to find my own worth in myself. It was the hardest work but also the most important step. Have I mastered it? No way! I still struggle and slip into old habits of trying to find value and worth from everyone and everything besides myself, but then something causes me to stop, refocus, and try to love me… value me.

When I was learning under Dr. Myers, I had zero self-worth… I really wish I could tell her how much her work has impacted me… how much it has helped me learn to value who I am. She continues to teach me in ways I never expected.


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