Learning to love yourself first as a caregiver is a case of ‘easier said, than done’. But the saying ‘love yourself first before you can love others’ rings truer than ever in the world of caregiving. But why do caregivers find it so difficult to practice self-love? Is it a perpetual presence of guilt which limits this practice?
Some would argue that feelings of guilt and an unrealistic view of perfectionism is the primary cause behind constant self-criticism and a failure to truly put yourself first.
These unrealistic views and goals can leave you feeling constantly defeated, low and overly self-critical as a caregiver. If you’re looking to work on your self-love, here are a few simple steps to help you get there…
First things first, you will need to examine your attitude and thoughts towards yourself in order to let go of guilt and make room for loving yourself.
1. Avoid comparing yourself to others – comparison is the thief of all joy and can only lead to feelings of self-loathing, resentment and hurt. Try not to compare your life, your journey or path to other caregivers, friends, family members or even strangers.
2. Banish feelings of unearned guilt – as a caregiver, feeling guilty is probably a daily occurrence. You are prone to these feelings because of the vulnerability of your care receiver and circumstances which cannot be changed. Let go of these feelings as you, alone, cannot change the inevitable cycle of life and death and the journey your care receiver is on. You can only do your best to make their lives easier, happier and more comfortable.
3. Don’t let pessimism dictate your life – many caregivers struggle with feelings of pessimism and clinical depression. If you feel like you need to speak to someone about your feelings or unload heavy thoughts, then do so! Try and make a real effort to change your daily way of thinking and update your outlook on life. Time well spent on doing so can go a long way in changing your overall levels of happiness.
4. Accept that you are only human – yes, you’re a caregiver and that carries a lot of responsibility, but at the end of the day, you are still human and allowed to have flaws! The sooner you accept this, the easier you will become on yourself. Accept that you have flaws which may need to be worked on, but these flaws make you who you are, and plenty of people will still love you for that, regardless.
5. Exercise and nourish your body – this age-old nugget of advice never gets old. Looking after your body will help to look after your mind, it’s that simple. Exercising regularly and eating a well-balanced diet will give you more energy and help you to feel better about yourself, overall. This being said, avoid shaming yourself for missing a workout or indulging every now and then – remember, you’re only human (refer to point above!).
6. Forgive others, forgive yourself – holding onto grievances or feelings of resentment because you’ve been hurt by others in the past is just weighing you down. Let go of the transgressions of others and forgive them. The same goes for your relationship with yourself. This is so important – learn to let go of your past mistakes and forgive yourself for them. What you are holding onto probably isn’t half as terrible as you think it is. By forgiving yourself, you are letting go of feelings of guilt, regret and shame, while making room for self-love, acceptance and happiness. Learn from your mistakes, don’t hold onto them.
A final thought is to remember to choose a good support network and surround yourself with positive, uplifting people. Ultimately, this type of support system can help you on your journey to establishing a sense of self-love and they will only encourage you to do so. Absorbing their love and support can go a long way in establishing a love for yourself.