​“Look, I am not denying that you have a lot of people to take care of, and I am not saying that you must remove any of them off your priority list. I am just asking you to include yourself on that list, doesn’t matter how many people are on that list, and it doesn’t matter what number you are on that list, just as long as you’re also on it”

    It was a dark day, and I was powering through The Most, putting on several capes for all the things and people I had to look after. My friend said this to me in the course of an hour long conversation of me rebutting every effort of hers to get me to admit that I was not okay. Boy, I went down fighting, and the only statement that I could accept to look after myself without feeling guilty was this fine one here. 

    Why is self -care such a hard act? Why is it that a small act of self-preservation can make one feel as though they are being selfish? Why are we programed to give continuously and feel guilty for replenishing ourselves? These words were the only palatable form of self-preservation that I could hold on to at the time, but since, I have been thinking….

    Sometimes, I switch off my phone. Most times I don’t reply to texts in real time, especially ones that upset me because that welcomes bad energy into my space before I have increased my tolerance levels enough to deal. Sometimes, I go back to my flat and sit with the pot of popcorn in bed while watching Being Mary Jane, instead of lunch or social outings. Sometimes, I hang out with people just because I recognise that I need a dose of social interaction after being in my own head too much or I’m bored of my own company. Sometimes, I spend my last R100 on three slabs of chocolate, a chilli cheese burger and a watermelon mcfizz and eat it in one sitting, instead of whatever responsible adult things are required for that week. 

    I think I have mastered having minimal needs but making sure to address them, and sometimes those needs are rent, sometimes its petrol, and sometimes it’s a Cadbury cashew and coconut chocolate or gin but I certainly won’t feel guilty for making either choice.

    The guilt associated with choosing yourself and what you need at a particular point in time over your responsibilities sucks. It is also such a significant internal tension to overcome in order to be functional and the role my friend played in this epiphany was so essential. She didn’t sit and write out my priorities and tell me where to place myself, she didn’t let me leave myself out my priority list then try supplement my lack of self-care herself, she didn’t undermine the importance of all the priorities on my list, she simply asked me to be on it. It is crazy that we need reminding to look after ourselves, and in as much as we can be on other people’s priority lists and know it, there is a key difference and importance for each person to put themselves on their own list. Nothing can supplement for self-love. No one can put you on their list in place of yourself on yours.

    Once you get passed that initial against-the-grain feeling of having your time, space and self, and the I-should-be-xyz-but-not-today-satahn guilt, you bring yourself closer the shift between first and last place according to your needs and life’s demands. 

    Ultimately, you can’t light fires with a burnt out candle…
    Don’t leave yourself behind, you’re going to need you too later.  

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