This article by Christine Schoenwald with quotes from Veronica Parker originally appeared on I Am & Co.
You may not know it, but putting yourself first is an essential element to living your best life, and one way to do this is to practice radical self-care.
If you’re not familiar with it, the term radical self-care can sound scary. Why is it radical? Do you have to have to do something big and outrageous to practice it?
First of all, radical self-care isn’t frightening; it’s essential to your health and well-being.
Simply put, radical self-care is about putting your needs first on the list—before the needs of anyone else including your children or your partner. It’s being mindful of what you need and making it your first concern.
“Radical self-care is the unparalleled act of taking care of yourself. It means making yourself a priority,” says wellness expert Veronica Parker. “It means giving yourself what you need and want first, before taking care of everybody else. It means saying yes to yourself more often, even if it requires you to say no to others.”
As women, we’re very comfortable in taking care of other people and we tend to be the major caregiver in any type of group or family situation, and we put their needs first. If there’s any time or energy left over, we may take the time to do something for ourselves. Maybe. So, it’s radical to say that you must put yourself first so that you don’t burnout. If you’re so busy giving of yourself to others and never taking care of you; there’ll be nothing left.
But isn’t putting yourself first selfish? No, putting a major emphasis on your own self is healthy, wise, and life-saving. Life empowerment coach Deborah J. Holliday says that radical self-care is not unlike how when you’re on an airplane, you’re instructed to put your mask on first before putting the mask of your child’s on.
“In the event of a rapid decompression at 35,000 feet, you have 7 to 15 seconds to put on your mask and retain your ability to function. This is the Time of Useful Consciousness (TUC) or Effective Performance Time and is all the time you have to function usefully when normal oxygen and air flow is interrupted. If you opted to use the time to help someone else, you would most likely pass out and be unable to put your mask on or help anyone else. However, if you applied radical self-care and put your mask on first, you would retain your ability to fully function and be helpful to yourself and others.”
If you don’t take good care of yourself, you won’t have the ability to provide support and care to others. In being selfish you’re actually making sure that you have the reserves of energy and capacity to help other people.
For some people, any kind of self-care is self-centered. “The biggest misconception about self-care is that it is selfish,” says Veronica Parker. “This couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, it is the most selfless act you can do. When you give yourself what you want and need, you have so much more to give to all.”
If calling it radical self-care makes you feel uncomfortable, call it something else. Call it Me-Time or whatever you want as long as you carve out some time every day to practice it.
“Radical self-care should really just be called necessary self-care,” says psychologist Dr. Molly Giorgio. “It is not selfish to take care of yourself, it is essential. It is not a luxury, it is survival. Radical self-care means identifying your own needs then making sure those needs are met.”
12 Ways To Practice Radical Self-Care
Because it’s vital to your well-Being to put yourself first…
Figure Out Your Needs
Sounds easy right? However, defining what your needs are when you’re used to pushing your needs to the side, is much harder than you might think. Ask yourself what it is that you need and what you’ve been missing. Write a list and write down everything that you can think of. Just the act of recognizing your needs is powerful and a great start to taking better care of yourself. Ask yourself, “What is it that you need?” Do you need more sleep, motivation to get in your daily workout, hacks for eating healthy, free time in which you can chill, a date night with your partner, a staycation, or time with friends?
Determine Your Solutions
You don’t need to find resolutions for every single thing on your list, but you’ll probably find that some solutions are quick fixes, while others may take more effort. The answers you come up with will help you to make a plan of attack—something that will help you to prioritize yourself.
Find New Ways To Meet Your Needs
Here’s your chance to get creative. Look at ways that you can shake things up a bit. Ask yourself how you can do something before your inner voice tells you to forget it and focus on something else. Think about what fulfills you and brings you joy, not just when you’re happy but when you’re sad, overwhelmed, frustrated, tired, angry, or unappreciated. Different emotional states have different needs. There’s not a one size fits all.
Reach Out To Others
Talk to people about what they do to take care of themselves. You might be surprised to find out your co-worker meditates or that your sister bakes. They may give you ideas you wouldn’t think of on your own. You’ll probably discover they had some challenges in putting themselves first, but that it ultimately was worth it.
Take Small Actions
Dr. Giorgio says, “Radical self-care can involve daily small acts of making sure your teeth are brushed, shower is done, bed is made, and breakfast is eaten, etc. It can then move to a larger context of how you are talking to yourself throughout out the day, who are you spending time with and will that support or nourish your growth.” Sometimes just making daily routines for yourself help you to feel better and have a more positive attitude throughout your day.
Carve Out Time For Self-Love Activities
While self-love is a part of self-care, there are times when you have to make an effort to show yourself love. Make a plan to do something that makes your body or spirit feel great. Take a bubble bath, or do something extravagant like an afternoon at the spa or treating yourself to a night in a fancy hotel.
The bottom line is that setting boundaries is crucial for our mental health and well-being. When we don’t have boundaries, we can feel resentment, anger, and exhaustion which can lead to mental distress, relationship issues, and cause problems at work. When you have healthy boundaries, you feel better, make better decisions, and are able to react from a place of balance.
Declutter Your Life
Try to remove the people and possessions that are not only not bringing you joy, but are weighing you down. If you’re always giving and never receiving, that’s an unhealthy balance. If you’re not getting the support and love from someone, then it’s okay to wish them well and cut them out of your life.
Give Yourself Permission
When you’re used to always doing for others, it may feel strange to put yourself first in your daily life and you might feel guilty. Lifestyle and mindfulness coach Wade Brill says, “Self-care doesn’t have to be about going on a yoga retreat or wearing a face mask. It is a deeper process. It stems from giving yourself permission to treat yourself with kindness and compassion and honor what your mind, body, and soul need.”
Be Grateful For The Good In Your Life
It doesn’t matter if you’ve achieved all the goals you set out to do or if you’re just starting out, because no matter where you are on your journey, you’ve already accomplished a lot. There’s so much for all of us to be grateful for and gratitude is a powerful force. Recognizing how much you have already is a positive step in appreciating and loving the life you have.
When we’re used to constantly doing for others, saying “no” can feel wrong and uncomfortable. What if they get angry or stop loving us? The truth is saying “no” is better for everyone involved. You don’t waste time doing something that you don’t want to do, and you don’t build up feelings of resentment towards them for asking you. Founder of Take Root Therapy Saba Harouni Lurie says, “ The most radical part of self-care for caregivers is the act of saying no. Saying no to others’ requests on your time and energy and saying yes to your own needs can feel scary, especially since many caregivers feel that their value comes from what they can offer other people.”
Promise To Take Care Of Yourself
You’ve come up with a plan and you know what steps you need to take in order to practice radical self-care and put yourself first. Now, it’s time to commit to putting yourself and prioritizing your needs.
There are so many benefits from making the decision to prioritize yourself and practice radical self-care. Health and wellness expert Caleb Backe says, “Radical self-care is the idea that if you’re not looking after yourself properly, you’re simply unable to look after others. The reason why you constantly feel so worse for wear is that you’re trying to give from a cup that’s practically empty. You have to make sure you’re overflowing in order to give to others. If you find that you’re living in constant stress, struggling to juggle the many social commitments in your life, and are often running on empty, then radical self-care is for you.”
Putting yourself first isn’t such a radical idea after all. If you’re emotionally and physically depleted, you have nothing in reserve to give to others or to yourself. It’s unselfish and the most caring thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones.
What are your thoughts regarding radical self-care? Is it selfish or a vital part of caring for yourself?
Thank you so much , I’ve been a natural giver that has drawn users and narcissistic sociopath s in my life ! I have had extensive counseling for the abuse as a child but not so much as an adult , to a new perspective and life !!