I had the pleasure of presenting at the International Women’s Day event for the Granite Belt She Hive today, and I would like to thank all of those ladies who came and spoke to me afterwards. As promised, I am posting my speech outline so that you will have something to refer back to if you want to implement some of the strategies I discussed.
So much has changed since the 1949 publication of Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, and yet, in other ways, not much has changed at all. We are still the second sex, the other, the object to the subject. This otherness manifests itself through how women today still live for others more than they live for themselves. We are still the carers, taking up most of the lower-paid service jobs. We still do most of the housework, even when we work full-time. We will stay home when the kids, parents, or other family members are sick. We are the second sex, and we have learned to put our needs second to the needs of others; our children, our husbands, and our employers.
It seems only natural. Well, it’s not natural. You were not born with a gene that says you come after everyone else in your life. It is learned. The training started early, from when you were very little, and you were told to be “nice” and to be a good girl. Now you need to unlearn this lesson. You need to start putting your needs first. It’s time to start taking care of yourself.
Self-care is so important to your physical, mental, and financial health, but it is something that few women make a priority. With a lifetime of training and social expectation to do the opposite, it can be hard to start.
What you need is a plan, a self-care plan. If you were starting a business, you would have a plan. If you were going to build a house, you have a plan. Every important undertaking in life requires a plan. Well, you are important. What I want you to learn how to do is curate your life. Make it just the way you want. That requires planning and executing that plan like your life depended on it. Because, quite frankly, it does.
Step one: Journaling:
My self-care plan started with a 0.39-cent exercise pad which I used to create a daily journal and a to-do list for the next day. Every day before I went to bed, I wrote in my journal what I had done that day. Accomplishments, problems, and thoughts for the day just passed. Then I created a list of what I wanted to accomplish the next day. This was the beginning of my taking control.
Step two: Gratitude and Meditation:
To add to this journalling process, begin practising gratitude. Select one thing you are genuinely grateful for each day you reflect upon. Sit quietly and meditate on the day just passed. What went well? Was there something or someone that we special? Sometimes it is as simple as it rained today, and I needed the water in my tanks. Write it down in your journal.
You are not grateful because life is joyful. Life is joyful because you are grateful.
Step three: Healthy Food
Now that you have done a little mental work, it is time to add some physical work.
The food you eat should enhance your life, not make you sick. Planning, purchasing and eating healthy foods should be a top priority.
Diseases caused by or increased in risk due to poor nutrition.
Overweight and Obesity
Heart Disease and Stroke
Type 2 Diabetes
Make a meal plan at the beginning of every week. Then make a shopping list and shop OFF THE LIST. Don’t shop while hungry, and stick to the list. You may be shopping for more than one person, which is OK. The other people in your home may even eat different foods. Do not allow yourself to be put last. Do not eat what other people eat unless you want to eat it.
For example, I prefer a vegetarian diet, yet I found myself eating meat dishes because that was what other people in my circle wanted. It was easier that way. I didn’t want to cause a fuss. I was being cooperative, ‘nice’, and LAST ON THE LIST.
Make your meal plan a part of the journaling, planning, and gratitude process started in steps one and two.
Step four: Physical activity.
Continue doing steps one through three, and add some physical activity.
Pick an activity that is just for you and do it every day. I do 30 minutes of walking every day. For the longest time, I kept telling myself that once my life went according to plan, I would have time to do 30 minutes daily. But years passed, and it never happened. I was still too busy for myself.
STOP. Take 30 minutes for yourself and put it into the plan today. You are worth 30 minutes a day. You do not have to wait until everyone else has a piece of you. You get to go first. I took that literally and do my 30 minutes first thing in the morning. It makes me feel great and sets me up for a fabulous day.
Step Five: Your Personal Space
Your personal space can significantly impact your physical and mental condition. According to research, clutter is a significant problem. “Keeping things tidy and ordered at home might seem trivial and mundane. Yet as housing becomes smaller and items become cheaper and easier to acquire, clutter accumulation in contemporary homes becomes increasingly burdensome”(Cwerner & Metcalfe, 2003). So, start unburdening yourself. Set yourself free from the “stuff” that now owns you more than you own it.
Stuff takes up your time and energy, as well as your money. If you don’t need it, get rid of it. Tackle one area at a time and throw away, donate, ditch. It will make you feel great. It also takes time. And you get better at it the more you do it. This is about that closet full of clothes that you don’t wear. You were given gifts (knickknacks) long ago that don’t fit your current style, but you feel obligated to keep them. Let go of that feeling of obligation and pass that item on.
Stop buying things on impulse. Do you really need that “thing”? Would a night out at the movies be a better use of that money? Things do not make us happy.
Step Six: Social: Saturday
We are social creatures, so take time to be in society, meet your friends, and make new friends. Try out social Saturday. This will be different for everyone. For example, I always work on a Saturday, so I picked another day. Make an effort. Call your friends on the phone. Arrange a catch-up for coffee. Go to the markets. Take yourself out. I am single, and I work on the weekends. I have lots of friends who work all week. So getting together in person can be difficult. I have no problem taking myself to the movies or out to dinner. I always seem to meet interesting people and have a great time. You could also join plenty of groups to expand your social circle.
Step Seven: Self-care Sunday
Have a day just for you. Self-care Sunday is a day to pamper yourself. This is the day you have that bubble bath, with a glass of wine and a good book if that is your thing. It’s the at-home pedicure and manicure. If you have a great social Saturday, it might also be laundry day, but that is OK, as taking care of your clothes is a part of self-care.
It’s that day you have a massage, do an extra workout, maybe with a personal trainer. It isn’t expensive. It’s that day you go to the local pool for a swim. It’s the day you do your DIY facial, rub moisturising bars all over your skin, or do a yoga class. It does not have to be a Sunday; this will be different for everyone.
Step Eight: Clothing
Do you stand in front of the wardrobe, full of clothes, and still have nothing to wear? We tend to hold onto clothes that are no longer fit for purpose. Allow yourself new clothes. I do not want to accumulate too much stuff, so I follow some basic rules.
- I allow myself one new item that I need or want per month. That gives me time to carefully consider my purchase, not to impulse buy and end with more clothes I will not wear.
- Practice one in, one out. If I get a new skirt, I get rid of an old skirt. The one that is too big or small has a stain, or I don’t like anymore.
I am not trying to have an extensive collection of clothes. I aim to have a carefully curated wardrobe that fits well, looks good, and suits my current style.
Don’t wear clothes that don’t make you look and feel great. That includes undies. If you would not be caught dead in them, throw them away. I am serious. Think about some of those undies I know you have in the draw. The ones you pull out, look at and then stuff back into the bottom of the draw. What are you saving them for? Go to your room right now and ditch the daggy undies.
Step nine: Creating New Habits.
Everything we discussed in steps one through eight can be created as a new habit. An extraordinary life does not become extraordinary overnight. It is our daily habits that create this life. It takes time to create a new habit. It is now my daily habit to journal every night and do a gratitude/meditation practice. It is a habit to then write my plan for the next day. It is a habit to go for a walk every morning, make a meal plan once a week, and pamper myself on Sunday.
I can still set bigger yearly, monthly, and weekly goals, but they are achieved through my daily habits. When you first start a new habit, it is not easy. You may have to push yourself to do it. Most people do not keep new years resolutions. But if you can stick with it for a month to two, it will become a habit, and then you are set.
I recommend reading Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Step Ten: Transend (or go beyond your range or limits)
We have talked about your mental and physical well-being. The final step is transcendence itself, to become more than you are. To grow as a person. How do you do this? I believe that self-improvement is the goal of life. To be a better person. To learn more, understand more.
You can take courses online or at a local college. You can read books. You can take yourself to an art gallery or a museum. Go to lectures. You can volunteer at a community group. You can join a group like U3A. Get to know someone from another culture. Listen to podcasts. GROW. If you don’t grow, what was it all for?
Let me tell you the one change I made that impacted my life the most. I got rid of the TV. I now have time to read, journal, go for a walk, take a bath, and give myself a facial….. The list goes on.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians spend one month a year sitting and watching TV. How does that improve your Life? What could you be doing for yourself instead? You could be planning and creating a fantastic life where you care for yourself and others.
Home and the extended-self: Exploring associations between clutter and wellbeing, Journal of Environmental Psychology
Volume 73, February 2021, 101553
Australian Bureau of Statistics. https://www.abs.gov.au/articles/australians-spend-one-month-year-sitting-watching-tv