OK I admit it I made that statistic up. Hopefully it got your attention though, because in my experience, at least 95% of women don’t look after themselves. So why do women have such an issue with SelfCare? All our personal launch blogs from us here at SelfCare Psychology, and our wonderful guest blogs, talked about us hitting a crisis point before we considered SelfCare. Through all my years of working with and knowing women, it's consistently been an issue for us. Unless we know the underlying reasons why we don't SelfCare, anything we do to change is only ever going to be temporary.
It's like having an open wound and putting a plaster on it: it's not going to help long term.
Essentially, I’m saying getting a pedicure and having a bubble bath isn’t going to solve everything: this stuff is so much deeper than that. We need to challenge our ingrained behaviours and the thinking that drives it.
1. How We’re Brought Up
OK so lets be real. We live in a world where apparently women are equal. Yeah I know- jokes. So we get to have careers, education and the vote, but we still get told we should be caring, nurturing, the lynch pins of our families, putting other’s needs first, whilst looking hot. That’s a shit ton of pressure right there. All this has a big influence on how much we look after ourselves. The amount of guilt and shame women feel for not putting other people’s wants above their needs is scary. And as women we do this to ourselves and each other. I’ve often had women challenge this, so I ask them- you see a Dad, by himself, in the supermarket with three kids, and they’re running riot. What are your thoughts? Classic answers are “Aww bless he’s trying” and “isn’t he good taking then out and doing the shopping”. Now switch that Dad to a Mum. Suddenly the answers aren't so supportive, and they question her ability as a parent: "She needs to control those kids". With all this pressure to prove ourselves as women who can do the impossible and be everything to everyone, it's not surprising caring for ourselves falls by the wayside.
2. How We Define 'Success'
As a society our definition of success has become money, things and status. Money, things and status equal success, happiness, and are basically the holy grail. If we climb the career ladder, get a better salary, a newer car, a bigger house, we will be satisfied and fulfilled. I know this is true because adverts constantly tell me it is. Except it's not. All research on happiness and health contradict this. Yes we need enough money to survive and be comfortable. But health, connection, relationships and fulfilment are what make us truly happy. If you ask me, being happy is the ultimate success! Unfortunately, we too often get caught up in the dominant story, running frantically on the hamster wheel trying to achieve and earn more to make things better. When we're in that mode, looking after ourselves becomes a low priority. Taking deliberate actions to care for ourselves has little value when we are buying into the idea that achieving and earning will solve everything.
3. How We Achieve 'Success'
We then get all confused about how to actually get that status, money and things. We decide that working long hours, and putting our all into work to the exclusion of everything else is the way to go. Except yet again, we're wrong! It's not a coincidence that insanely 'successfull' people like Arianna Huffington place huge value on SelfCare. Or that flourishing companies like Google encourage staff to look after their well-being. The irony is that it's the people who know how to prioritise their well-being who end up with the money, status and things. People who sell us the work all the time story are just trying to keep us in line. I'm looking at you Donald Trump, Mr I " Don’t take vacations. What’s the point?". Who actually by the start of August had spent 13 of 28 weekends in office away from the White House at his holiday homes.
4. Low Self Esteem
This is fundamental. If we don't value ourselves, we don't care for ourselves. It's that simple. And too many women don't. Don't even get me started on the way we talk to ourselves, poisoning our minds with messages that we're not good enough, not pretty enough, not successful enough. Basically just all round not worthy enough. I've heard this again and again, and its about time we started valuing ourselves more. In fact, it's way past time.
5. We Forget Who We Are
If I had a pound for every time I've asked a woman what she enjoys doing and she replied "seeing my kids happy" I would be a rich, rich lady (who according to our definition of success would consequently be SO much happier than everyone else!). I'm not suggesting we should be shit parents who don't care about our children's happiness. But we matter too. We are individuals with our own interests and needs. When I tell women they have to answer my question with something which isn't about another person enjoying themselves, they often stare at me blankly. With all the pressures and expectations we've talked about going on, we often just plain forget what we enjoy. What make us feel good. What makes us happy. And I think that's really sad. How do we SelfCare if we don't even know what we like to do?
So now that we are all thoroughly depressed, my work here is done! I jest, I jest. The first step to solving any problem is to identify the root causes. Then we can start to tackle them from the ground up. That's what we set SelfCare Psychology up to do. So subscribe to our newsletter; comment below; follow, share and talk to us on social media; and become part of the solution as a member of the #selfcaresquad. We want to know what's important to you, what you want to know more about, what you struggle with, so that we're giving you what you need. Watch this space as we tackle all the issues we've talked about, and show you how to fight back. As women, we owe it to ourselves, and to each other. Women empowering women is a powerful thing.
Kate Collier is a Co-Founder here at Self Care Psychology. She has worked with women, helping them improve their lives, in various roles, for over a decade. She manages our Instagram, you can read her bio to find out more about her here, and find her on her twitter @LuckyLuckyKateC and her Instagram @luckyluckykate.