Like a lot of parents, I’m not great at self-care.
I thought I was. If you’d asked me a year ago, “Hey Stephen, are you taking care of yourself? Doing what you need to stay in a good place?” I’d have given you an emphatic yes.
I made time to read books. I took time to write. I went out and got drinks with friends every now and then (after the kids went to sleep.) I even made time to play golf occasionally.
I had self-care figured out.
Or so I thought.
I’ve written before on a dark time in my life, when I was working sixty hours a week at 3 part-time jobs, and still barely keeping my head above water. I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I was tired, cranky, and with no signs of improvement on the horizon, I turned to the only thing I could control.
It started innocently enough. I was in a hurry, so dinner was from the drive-thru. I was on my feet all day, so I was hungry, so I needed to eat a little more. This quickly turned into a breakfast in the drive-thru on the way to work, and dinner from the same drive-thru on the way home. I couldn’t control my job or the fact that I was getting shot down for interview after interview,
But I could control food.
I weighed 175 pounds when I got married in 2006. In December of 2012, I hit 250.
Now thankfully, I have a wife who is honest, even when I sometimes don’t want her to be. We had a heart to heart at one point and she said, very plainly, that she’d like me to be alive to see my kids graduate High School and to not eat from a drive-thru every day.
Which seemed like a totally reasonable request.
One which I took to heart, for a few months.
Then went right back to the world of CrunchWraps and McChickens.
Over the course of the next 3 years, I went back and forth, at times slimming down to 220, then getting right back to 250. As soon as I was remotely happy with the progress I’d been making, the dollar menu would suck me right back in.
So what was happening? Was my willpower that awful? Was my self-control that weak?
Turns out, when you don’t feel like you’re worth taking care of, you don’t take care of yourself.
I’m not saying this to get pity. I’ve long dealt with feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth. I’m an 2 on the Enneagram, and as such, my basic fear is that of being unwanted, or unworthy of love. As a result of this, I can come on very strong in a social situation because I want to be liked and valued.
Realizing this was like taking off a blindfold.
This was why I hadn’t been taking care of myself. This was why, no matter how hard I seemed to try, the pull of the value menu was too strong to overcome. I didn’t inherently see myself as worth taking care of, so why bother?
That changed this year.
I made a deal with myself in 2017. I would eat better (not perfect, I still love french fries and nuggets) and I would exercise. I would begin the slow work of actually taking care of not just my mind, but my body.
It’s going to be a slow journey. I started running regularly in January and though it is easier now than it was, it is still painful. The miles hurt. I am sore. I do not enjoy running, but I love the way I feel when I’m done running. Like I’ve accomplished something. Like I’m worth taking care of. Like I matter.
I ran a 5k on Saturday. If you had told me a year ago that I’d be willingly getting up to go run on a Sunday morning at 7:45 AM, I’d have laughed in your face. Truth is, I was terrified. I was scared I won’t make it. I was scared I wouldn’t have the stamina to get through it. I’m scared that I will be the last person across the line. I was scared that my family would come to watch me finish and see me walking across the finish line in defeat.
But you know what? I did it.
I’m taking those voices that tell me I’m not worth it, and I’m shutting them down. They’re still there, but I’m choosing to ignore them. They will never go away. They will always be there, whispering in my ear that I'm unlovable and unworthy, but they will not have power over me anymore.
With this small step, I’m showing myself that I’m worth taking care of.
And so are you.