Why Does Self-Care Make Me Feel Guilty?

With the colder months ahead, I am drawn toward anything that brings comfort and warmth. I browse soft blankets online, consider all the scented candles, and constantly crave pumpkin-spiced beverages.

Everywhere I look, nature tells me that this is the season of renewal and rest as squirrels and birds get ready for the quieter months.

Struggling with practicing self-care

All of this makes me think of self-care. Yet I have a problem with self-care.

If I were to go to a meeting of "self-carers anonymous," that would be my opening statement right after my name. It’s not that I don’t know what self-care is or that I object to it.

It's just that whenever I do anything that prioritizes my physical and emotional well-being, a feeling of restlessness follows. In my mind, thoughts go from what I "should" be doing to feeble justifications of why I deserve a moment of quietness.

Self-care makes me feel guilty

For someone with three jobs, staying still is already an act of self-care. However, it fills me with guilt.

How dare I stop? Doing nothing feels self-indulgent and lazy. So anything that falls under the category of self-care makes me uneasy.

In my head, a relaxing bubble bath is something Mariah Carey would probably find no excuses to enjoy because she's a hard-working diva. But I am not Mariah - no matter how much I believe I can decently sing a certain festive hit of hers.

Where does my guilt come from?

I am pretty sure that being half-British means a high level of awkwardness in my personality that finds anything that leans towards self-care unnecessary.

Then is the chronically-ill side of my personality. The one that has convinced me is that if I don’t do what honors this illness (eating well, frequently exercising, and working hard because having a job is a privilege), only bad things will come my way. I will end up paying for any "excessive" amount of rest.

Additionally, decades of thinking my chronic fatigue was procrastination - before getting my endometriosis diagnosis - has done a number on me. On a given day, I easily over 10 hours, yet my mind will still find a way to label myself as lazy if, in the evening, all I want to do is lie down.

Feelings of inadequacy and shame are linked to life with endometriosis

I've spent my life apologizing for my disruptive symptoms, whether to employers who have seen me use up all of my sick days or friends who seem uncomfortable when I don’t respond with enthusiasm to plans I fear canceling due to a sudden flare-up.

When I am the one “with the issues,” the person who requires accommodations for her disruptive symptoms, it’s easy to think of myself as inadequate, even unworthy.

Self-care is not indulgent

Self-care is a coping mechanism. Because this disease can deeply affect our mental health, self-care is a very necessary practice.

Whether allowing ourselves to stop looking at emails and stare at some birds for a while, re-reading a beloved book, or prioritizing cuddles with our dogs over fulfilling other people’s expectations. Self-care will preserve our good health.

This is why this fall, I am making self-care a daily practice. Each morning I allow myself ten extra minutes in bed by meditating.

I follow that with a coffee that I brew slowly while I wash my face and moisturize.

Those are the two things I do daily, without fail. I hope to add other things, like healthy breaks from work, that doesn’t make me feel like a slacker.

But I am getting there with kindness and patience. My health matters and self-care is the key to a better me, inside and out.

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