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The mental gymnastics of self-care

A continuous struggle

This week was my mother’s 80th birthday (Go Mom!), and I took the day off to spend it with her. We’ve already technically celebrated during a weeklong vacation in Mexico over the Thanksgiving holiday. But, on this rare occasion that I am not on the road, I’ve chosen to spend her actual birthday day cherishing her.

I also had the good fortune of moderating a panel for PLI’s Taking Control of Your Well-Being: Mental Health and Wellness for Attorneys 2023 this past Monday.

Why am I sharing these events with you?

Because I want to talk about the mental gymnastics we put ourselves through for self-care, wellness and having a personal life.

My To-Do list is long (whose isn’t?). Since I made the plan to spend the day with my mom, all of the below thoughts have gone through my head at some point or another:

  • Am I actually going to take the whole day off?
  • My mother only turns 80 once.
  • I really can’t afford to lose a day with everything I have to do.
  • I’m so thankful my mom has made it to 80 (and she’s a very vibrant and healthy 80, by the way).
  • When can I fit in all of the things I needed to work on today?
  • I love my mom.

And the thoughts go on.

Now, I’m a person who wrote a book about joy. I am also an overachiever who is so conditioned for achievement, it continues to wage war in my brain. The self-sacrificing nature of accomplishment is a hard one to reverse.

An additional unfortunate aspect to all of this is that if I had called my mom on the morning of her birthday and said I couldn’t make it due to work, she would tell me she understands. She would be disappointed, but she understands. She’s been conditioned to also sacrifice for my work.

Makes me sad.

During the PLI event this week, many examples were shared about the guilt associated with self-care, with choosing yourself sometimes, with what we feel like we have to trade to enjoy (or simply survive) our lives. So many of us do it. All the time.

So, today’s post is simply about observation and encouragement.

Observe the struggle that happens within you. Acknowledge it. Ask yourself if there truly is any major negative consequence of taking the time for yourself. (If there is, mitigate it so you can still take the time.) And then let it go.

Find the fortitude to choose for you more often. As much as I love what I do, I’m not going to die wishing I worked more. Plain and simple.


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