When I think back on what’s made the biggest difference in my personal journey over the past decade, I realized it had to do with prioritizing self-care.
It began with focusing on what I needed for my personal definition of self-care.
Prioritizing the things that nourished my body, mind and spirit. From the little things like reading a book, making time for exercise, honing my daily routines, experimenting with ways to make my life better and paying more attention to how I look and feel. To the more complex behavior and mindset shifts such as feeling more confident, taking more risks and knowing my worth.
It didn’t feel natural at first… it felt awkward, indulgent, and inconvenient.
After all, who has time for these things when there are so many things to do? Those people must have way too much time on their hands.
At least, that was my thinking when I was at my most miserable and unhealthy state about five years ago.
But over time, prioritizing self-care began to feel more natural.
Now, I embrace routines and opportunities for self-care, even though some days it can be still hard to come by. It’s become a new way of life that I’m constantly honing and improving upon.
Prioritizing self-care has resulted in a lot of changes.
1) I’m easier on myself
When you take better care of yourself, you reinforce the fact that you don’t have to be pushing yourself all the time.
You realize you don’t have to be constantly ticking something off the to-do list, doing things for other people or saying yes to events you don’t really want to attend.
Life doesn’t have to be at full throttle—in fact, that kind of pace is detrimental over the long term.
It’s okay to take a break. To say no to something. It’s okay to do something just for you. Something that’s simply for your enjoyment and peace of mind.
Being rather introverted, I need more time to myself than most people. I’ve learned to give myself the time and space over the years, but it didn’t come without trials, errors and some breakdowns. It’s been a learning process of knowing myself and balancing commitments.
Taking time just for yourself gives you some space in a society of systems and products speeding along at a pace designed to rush, distract and numb you.
2) I feel love for myself
I didn’t like many parts of myself in the past. I wished my hair was less frizzy and more like the stereotypical “Asian” hair, that certain parts of my body were different and my introverted personality was more extroverted. If only certain things would be different, I thought my life would be so much better.
It turns out, this is a losing mentality that will simply continue even if you get what you want. You’ll just find yet another thing you wish were different, and it’s a never-ending cycle.
I feel love and compassion for my current and past self in ways I never did in prior years.
Showing my current self more love and compassion includes giving myself a break when I’m tired. It involves more positive self-talk. Compassion for my past self includes letting go of any “shoulda-coulda-wouldas” and knowing I did the best I knew how during that time. I still have bad days, but there are far fewer of them now than in past years.
When you start prioritizing yourself, you realize you’re loveable and worth it just as you are. You don’t need to have anything else to be authentically and beautifully you.
3) My self-confidence has improved
My confidence has slowly improved over the years with self-care.
I’m now able to accept compliments with a simple thank you instead of feeling unworthy or embarrassed. I readily take a seat at the table instead of hanging back and not wanting to take up space. Instead of worrying about being an inconvenience to others, I now more directly ask for what I want. I’m way better at saying no or suggesting alternatives when someone wants me to do something I prefer not to do. I’m still working on fully embracing my identity in certain areas, and if you’re constantly growing, there will always be an element of that. But the key is, growing your confidence as you go instead of remaining at a standstill or shrinking.
As your self-confidence improves, you’ll realize everyone else is primarily concerned with his or her own business.
Therefore, you should go after what you want and how you want to live your life with confidence. Greater confidence has really freed up my life in a lot of ways. It definitely didn’t come overnight. Rather, it was slowly practiced, intentionally built, and reinforced with self-care over the years.
4) I’m kinder to others
When you’re kinder to yourself, it tends to translate to greater kindness and understanding for others.
Instead of automatically taking a defensive stance when a disagreement comes up, you’re more likely to consider other viewpoints. When I was at my most unhealthy state, I wasn’t a very pleasant person to be around. I was overwhelmed, easily stressed, reactive and didn’t give people as much of a benefit of the doubt.
Having a healthy level of self-love and confidence enables you to be more of a positive influence in the world.
When you’re prioritizing self-care for yourself, it’s easier to remember that everyone is struggling with their own problems and challenges.
Like with everything on this list, it’s not something that’s once and done. I’ve noticed when I feel stressed, overwhelmed or anxious, my patience tends to be short-circuited. It’s something I need to always keep a watch on and have loved ones keep me accountable.
5) I know my worth
I don’t feel the need to prove myself as much anymore. You realize that there are people who will resonate with and like you, and people who won’t. And either one is just fine.
You won’t take offense if someone doesn’t follow you on social media. At the same time, you don’t need to follow them on social media either. I’ve personally found myself using social media less and less these days, as it’s definitely not a positive influence on my self-worth and general well-being.
If someone doesn’t reciprocate or seem to have much interest in getting to know you, you don’t need to invest time in building a relationship either. Instead of feeling upset by whatever happens, you’ll simply observe without judgment, calmly consider how you want to proceed and take action.
Knowing your worth helps you take more of the laissez-faire approach to life.
You know that whatever happens, happens and you’ll make the best decision for you accordingly.
This is also something that doesn’t happen overnight. I still sometimes find myself worrying about what someone thinks of me, whether or not they’ll like me or if they misinterpreted something I did or said. But overall, this tendency has significantly dwindled since I’ve prioritized self-care.
There will always be different situations that are challenging, and these are our growth opportunities. But when you prioritize self-care, you’ll likely find you’re better able to manage those situations than before—with greater confidence and ease. I’ve found self-care to be the biggest contributor to being happier and an ever-evolving best version of myself.