Martorella: Treating yourself with kindness is critical

Rebecca Martorella, LMFT welcomes ideas and comments and can be reached at themomfront@optonline.net.

Rebecca Martorella, LMFT welcomes ideas and comments and can be reached at themomfront@optonline.net.

Hearst Connecticut Media

You have probably heard the little ditty, “Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you.” This glowing Golden Rule guides my behavior and probably yours as well. Seems simple, really. Treat others kindly, just as you want to be treated.

The importance of being kind has garnered a lot of coverage in recent years. We have been living in some unkind times lately, and it merits repeating that treating others with kindness and love may be the easiest secret to life there is.

But how many of us apply this phrase to ourselves? Do you do unto yourself as you would have others do unto you? Do you treat yourself with the same kindness and love you give to others?

Sure, there has been a lot of talk about making time for “self-care” over the past year. It is no secret that during this pandemic period we have all been stretched thin balancing work, household responsibilities, parenting and school; constantly adapting to ever-changing schedules; spending too much time together in the home and not enough time connecting with those outside of the home; struggling with health issues, mental health, and care of loved ones; and managing the many other unique and unexpected burdens that have been loaded upon us.

However, participating in “self-care” does not necessarily mean you are practicing “self-love”. Self-care consists of taking actions to nurture yourself. Self-love means you take these actions without guilt, hesitation, fear, shame, or remorse. It means you take time for yourself without feeling like you have to justify it. It means you can say “no” because you don’t want to do something, not just because you don’t have one spare minute to take it on.

This can be really hard for some of us, and for moms especially. We identify as caretakers and are trained to be good girls and expected to consider others before ourselves. We may feel guilty leaving our children for too long, spending money on ourselves, or fighting for our choice over others’ preferences.

Maybe, like me, you are a “people-pleaser,” feeling like you must ask permission before taking time for yourself, watch the clock while you are out, be grateful for your time away and then make up for it upon your return. It’s easy for us fall back from putting ourselves first when we feel the uncomfortable pushback from disappointed others who are used to being prioritized.

Shame and guilt are powerful motivators. They propel us to keep going at any cost, and are often rewarded outwardly with achievement and praise. Self-love is less socially acceptable. It is associated with negative traits like selfishness, conceit, vanity, and narcissism. Consider that even while we encourage our children to love and speak up for themselves, we may also unintentionally negate this message by rewarding good, conforming behavior and stifling dissent.

Those who truly practice self-love weave acts of self-care into their lives because they know they deserve to care for themselves despite societal messages that they should not. Acting from a place of self-love may require you to make some unpopular decisions. It may sometimes appear to others as stubborn, arrogant, or inconsiderate, and this can be especially difficult for women. Self-love may even be outwardly punished as some relationships falter, but ultimately the rewards are internal.

Perhaps I am sharing too much here. Maybe I’m the only one who struggles to remember myself in the golden rule, to treat myself with love and kindness. But I am guessing there is someone else that needs to hear this, especially right now. Whether you work inside or outside the home, parent or non-parent, married or single, young or old, green or purple, you deserve to do things that bring you joy “just because”. You don’t have to apologize for spending the afternoon binge-watching Netflix, or taking an extra yoga class, or driving around alone for some quiet time, or stopping at the drive-thru for some fancy coffee even though you have perfectly fine coffee at home, or splurging on a haircut or new clothes even though you don’t have anywhere to go.

You are deserving because you are. Not because you earned something, not because you accomplished something, not because you did something. Simply because you are here.

Note, acting from a place of self-love requires strong mental health. Many people struggle with mental health in the best of times. This has not been the best of times. If you feel like you are struggling with depression or other mental health issues, please call 211 to be connected to services. You deserve it.

Rebecca Martorella, LMFT welcomes ideas and comments and can be reached at themomfront@optonline.net.