Real Talk: The Shame of Self Care

Lisa Bova

Recently my husband and I took a 5 day getaway to Las Vegas. He, with his eternal sinus flareups and aversion to cigarette smoke could go the rest of his life without ever returning to Vegas, but it is my absolute bliss. I am a poker player, an indulgent eater, and an unapologetic spa whore. Though I don't purchase any services, I live for spa day passes and can spend hours in saunas, Jacuzzi and other water features. I lounge about in a robe nibbling on bananas while planning my next course of action; zero gravity chair or steam room? I was mid way through my last spa day dozing off in the Jacuzzi when a nude rando stepped in and decided to strike up some small talk. Beyond relaxed and reaching skin pruning territory, I answered her questions mostly with one word answers, feeling meditatively beyond such surface conversation. "It's so quiet, she said, has it been this slow since you've been here?" "Yes, I like to come when nobody is around, I've been here since 4 and it's been great". Her face changed, her smile literally slow motion dissolved as she crooked her head and asked judgingly "You've been here since 4?!!" "Oh, yes, I responded shamelessly, and I plan to close them out". Thank you. Drive thru. Buh Bye.

See friends, I spent many years oblivious to the impact and necessity of self care. I was a practicing esthetician for a decade, and as anyone in the wellness and bodywork industries knows, providing services year after year takes a lot out of you. By the time I let go of my esthetics business I was an empty vessel, depleted mentally and breaking down physically. I was in chronic pain from a work related back injury that never had time to heal, and I was 60lbs overweight from inconsistent and rushed eating over bed sheet changes in between clients. I absolutely loved what I did and my clients were precious to me, but after 10 years, I had nothing left to give and only stale energy to to offer my clients. My fatigue was becoming obvious, and that was a huge disservice to my clients.

I allowed my body to suffer through the hustle and grind and neglected my well being while giving to others. Self care, sadly, was never a priority and "balance" was a concept I longed to acquire. Here I was waxing clients all day while concealing the hairiest legs in the capital city! Doctor appointments and lunch with friends just didn't fit in my overbooked schedule, as any open time slots meant potential income. Time was scarce, divided up in 30 minute increments for weeks in advance, year after year.

Maybe some of this sounds familiar. So many of us get caught up in the cycle of giving that there is a squirmy, uneasy feeling when that cycle is broken, even if just for a quick walk on a gorgeous day. Self care shouldn't feel like escaping. Running off to a bi-monthly hot stone massage as the only retreat in the vast wilderness of life's soul sucking challenges just ain't gonna cut it. Burnout happens when little acts of self love are neglected for long periods of time. Carving out time everyday to nurture the body and mind will balance scales of chaos and peace. Daily exercise, preparing nutritious meals, and engaging in enjoyable hobbies, even if only briefly, should never, ever feel like self centered time wasters.

I get it, some of us can't get around to self care due to finances, time constraints or both. That's just life. I just propose that when we do indulge in things that make us happy and recharge our batteries that we don't contend with guilt while doing so! Haven't we learned by now that we are as good as useless to anyone else if we neglect our own well being? Why then, are we still shaming others and ourselves for essentially enjoying our lives? Why on Earth is replenishing one's spirit considered selfish, while being absurdly "busy" is a badge of honor?

Hats off to those who know the importance of giving self love, recognizing the imperative act of filling yourself up and remaining unaffected by condescending judgment with words or gestures as obvious as Jacuzzi lady's furrowed brow. Know that these toxic forms of martyrdom are nothing more than sad projections within the thinking of others. It's only as I've gotten older that I truly appreciate the time I allow myself for the things I enjoy. Heaven knows I didn't get here easily, and continue to fight like Hell to ward off conflicting thoughts.

Like many it's taken me years to convince myself that I deserve such enjoyment, and that time spent away from "productivity" or "doing for others" is valid time that need not be hurried along. I found that constant giving with no receiving manifested in resentment and pent-up anger. I directed that anger at myself for allowing my tank to remain on empty for so long, while being unable to see any other reality than running myself into the ground. No longer do I live this way because here is reality as I see it now: time is a tickin'. This crazy beautiful journey we call life is inching closer and closer to its inevitable conclusion with each passing day. Love yourself, love your people, and enjoy your life.

Photography by Adrienn Instagram @adriheiszter

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