Why You Must Take Care of Your Self
A typical day in the life of a mother with young children goes something like this.
I’m sleep deprived. My brain fog is so thick I put the milk in the pantry and the Cheerios in the fridge. I can’t even remember the last time I slept through the night.
I haven’t gone to the bathroom in over 10 hours. The last time I did, I wasn’t alone and I was subjected to embarrassing commentary from a tiny peanut gallery.
I feel lightheaded and slightly sick. Oh, wait! Did I forget to eat again? Forget finding time to prepare something healthy. I’ll just polish off the crusts of my kids’ PBJs. That will keep me going another 5 hours until bedtime. It won’t do much good for my waistline, though.
The pain in my knee is bothering me again. I should probably get it looked at, but I only go to the doctor for prenatal visits and well-baby checkups. Maybe I’ll have time to take care of my own health issues when they are in college.
Ugh. Is it already time to make dinner again? I just finished getting breakfast and lunch cleaned up. Am I a bad mom if I only offer my children 2 meals a day instead of 3? They don’t really need to eat three whole meals every day do they? They never seem to finish all their food anyway. Isn’t it wasteful of me to fix three meals a day for my family when some families are fortunate if they get one?
And now another day has passed without me taking the time to exercise. I tried 6 months ago, but toddlers climbing all over me added too much resistance and so I quit. Besides, hauling loads of laundry up and down the stairs really should count as exercise!! What do you mean I live a “sedentary” lifestyle because I’m a stay-at-home mom who does “light housework”? Are you serious?
I’m so tired. Is it bedtime yet?
Why do we take care of everyone else, but neglect ourselves so often? Maybe it feels selfish to focus on our own needs. Perhaps we are motivated by guilt or a martyr attitude. Sometimes, when we’re honest, we realize we have believed the lies of our enemy and we just don’t love ourselves very much. Some days we don’t even like ourselves. In order take care of ourselves, we have to love ourselves and know our value first.
Loving God, Others, and Yourself
When asked what the most important commandment of God is, Jesus responded that it is to love God and love our neighbor (Mark 12:28-31). He didn’t just pick one or the other—God or people; because the commandment to love is one and the same. If we love God then we will also love people because He loves them (1 John 4:20).
Christians talk about these verses often, but there is part of the verse that we usually overlook. Let’s look at what Jesus actually said.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Those last two words are the part we skip over too often. If we are going to love our neighbor as ourselves, then it implies we must first love ourselves. God calls us to love ourselves–not in a selfish, worldly, me-first sort of way; but in a way that includes the love of God and the love of others as God has instructed.
God wants us to love everything He loves, and that includes ourselves. God does not want us to hate ourselves, consider ourselves worthless, or beat ourselves up.
Self-loathing is not humility. It is an affront to God–labeling what He has lovingly created for His own glory as unacceptable, unredeemable, and unlovable. Actually, putting ourselves down is just another form of pride. Whether we are focused on ourselves in positive or negative ways, we have still shifted our center from God to ourselves.
Yes, we are unworthy of His affection. Yes, we can never be perfect or save ourselves. But we are genuinely acceptable, totally redeemable, and utterly lovable. Why? Because He said so. He loved us first. He looks past our unloveliness and sees all the wonderfulness He created us to be. He longs for us to believe and embrace the truth of who we really are.
Taking Care of Yourself
I have often heard that the secret to true joy is “JOY”.
J – Jesus first
O – Others second
Y – You last
This sounds good in theory, but it doesn’t really work for me. With a family of ten, there are so many “others” in my life that if I always put myself last, there’s nothing left over for me.
If you’ve ever been on an aircraft, you’ve heard the flight attendant’s presentation on what to do if there is a loss of cabin pressure. They always tell you to put your own mask on first before you try to help someone else. I used to think it sounded selfish to get your own oxygen first before helping children. Now that I’m a mom myself, I get it. I can help anybody if I’m passed out on the floor because I ran out of air. Sometimes you just have to take care of your own needs first so that you will be able to care for others. It’s not selfish to care for yourself. It’s necessary. You can’t do all the wonderful things God has called you to do if you don’t get your own oxygen first.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
These 2 verses from Philippians show the balance of caring for others and ourselves. Verse 3 tells us to count others as more significant than ourselves. In verse 4, “not only to his own interests” implies we are to look after our own needs.
Taking care of yourself is not selfish. It enables you to have the strength to take care of others.
How can you love others as you love yourself if you don’t love yourself enough to even take care of your most basic needs?
How do you tend to neglect yourself and why?
What can you do to make sure you get your own oxygen before you try to help others?
“Drops in the Ocean” by Hawk Nelson
[tweetthis]Taking care of yourself is not selfish. It enables you to take care of others.[/tweetthis]
To read other posts in this series, click the image below.
Elizabeth is a military spouse, veteran, and mother of eight. Above and beyond caring for her family, her mission is to offer words that sustain the weary and equip people to live a life of faith filled with purpose.
Learn more at elizmeyers.com.