Looking back over the long-stretching pandemic, it’s clear we’ve all let a lot of stuff go. For some of us, it was our carefully choreographed lives, our delicately balanced diets, or tightly scheduled social lives. For others, it was something less obvious, but just as important: self-love.
I know for me, the early part of the pandemic was an anxiety-inducing thrillride from one defeat to the next. My copywriting business slowly turned to sand in my hands, throwing my entire career into a dark pit of uncertainty. I applied for literally hundreds of staff writing jobs, interviewed for several, before finally being selected to move on in the hiring process in SEPTEMBER. It would still take until January until I started, and then was almost immediately part of a project liquidation in mid-February.
I’m back at work full time now, thankfully, but my point is that it was wild for me. And I’m sure it was for you, too, especially if you have school-aged kids that added (or are still adding) a layer of complication to the same sort of mess I had to deal with.
In all that chaos, I realized that I was really neglecting my own needs. But, I mean, I couldn’t even hold down a job, so obviously I didn’t deserve any of the good things and was kind of a general, all-around awful person.
Oddly enough, I don’t ever think this about other people who are struggling, they always get the benefit of the doubt.
But I know me. And I’m the worst.
Acts of Service: An Underrated Love Language
For a lot of people, acts of service get lost in the shuffle of life, especially when the last year and a bit have been the way it’s been. But the truth is that when someone does for us, it’s a huge deal. It truly is. And if one of your love languages actually happens to be acts of service, well, it’s even bigger.
I think we all have a little “acts of service” in us, though maybe not in the way that people imagine. When we do for others, we send a very clear message: I care about you and helping you achieve your goals. Whatever those goals are, whether they’re simply to unclench a bit, or if they’re something more lofty, like securing a job that won’t fucking disappear.
But how often do we say this to ourselves? I care about you, self, and I want to see you happy. I want to make sure you have what you need to achieve more than survival.
I don’t know about you, but for me, I easily slip into the trap of trying to fill the cups of others from a very, very empty teapot.
That’s why this year, I’m trying very hard to do things for myself. This is why I bought a piano that was an absolutely frivolous purchase. I did it just for me. I’m never going to make a living with the piano. I’m never going to do anything with it besides enjoy it.
That’s ok, though. That’s a thing I’ve done for myself. A thing I’m doing just for me, and keeping just for me.
What Are You Doing for Yourself?
Most of the things I do for me are subtle. I take a walk with the dogs most days. Ok, that’s partially for them, too, but it’s also for me. A few weeks ago, I bought some flowers for a bed up by my house. Just for me.
I’m slowly eliminating clutter and organizing what’s left. Slowly. It’s a big project.
I’m trying to read more books. I deserve to have an elastic mind as I move through middle age.
Everything I do for myself I do with a purpose. And I do each thing fully aware that it’s only for me (and sometimes also the dogs), so there’s no pretending like it’s any other way. Otherwise I get back into that whole empty teapot mindset, which is no bueno.
Even if it’s something small, doing something for yourself is a subtle signal that you’re actually worth the investment. Buy that fancy shampoo that you’ve been wanting to try, but didn’t think you deserved to spend the extra buck on.
You obviously can’t do everything for you, that’s a sort of opposite issue, but you can’t live a life with any satisfaction if you do nothing for yourself over a long stretch of time. If you make self-neglect a habit, everything suffers.
You need to do for yourself. It doesn’t make you selfish. It makes you whole.
So, when you put the kids to bed tonight, indulge in something just for you. Watch that garbage TV you’d be ashamed to tell anyone about. Eat the ice cream you stashed in the back of the freezer. Give yourself a pedicure.
Here’s your homework: Do something nice for yourself. And only for yourself. Whatever additional niceness fallout it happens to have is just icing on the cake. Report back to me.