Why I’m no longer an after-thought
How much time do you get to spend doing things you love? The things that set your soul on fire, or make you feel as though you’re right where you should be?
A couple of years ago, in spite of having built a life purposefully and been lucky enough to have a beautiful baby boy, I was struggling. This precious little person had quite literally, as I have written before in my series about my recovery from an eating disorder – saved my life. I owe him and my husband my life. Together, they brought me back.
Which is why how I felt confused me more than anything. Surely, I shouldn’t feel this way. What I knew in my heart was that there was something wrong with me.
When I say I was struggling, what I mean is bone-crushingly, soul-suckingly struggling. I put a good face on it, but every few weeks I would end up ugly-crying to my poor husband and neither of us could really pinpoint precisely why. Then I felt guilt at being so selfish and indulgent, when the fact was that I was #blessed.
It took me a while to recognise it, but my identity had shifted so unrecognisably since I’d had our baby boy that I was a shell of my former self and my confidence was shattered.
When I looked at it, I wasn’t getting much time for me. I was pouring all my love into caring for Xav who was joyful but far from an easy baby (if there is such a thing…). I was constantly on the back foot with him and felt like a failure daily.
I was also putting a tonne of energy and focus into trying to help Tim, who was becoming seriously ill. I researched how to keep him as well as possible for as long as possible, and the desire to make a difference to his health (because it was the only way I could regain even a shred of control over the situation) consumed me.
I found it impossible with a clingy baby/toddler to find time for exercise. I didn’t have the space to be creative with my work at the time, because I’d made the decision to work differently and baby brain shrouded my clarity over what I needed. I hadn’t had a holiday or break in ages, and I also hadn’t sung for several years (I’d been in a band before Xav).
Cumulatively, my decisions to neglect myself in these ways had a catastrophic effect on me. It wasn’t until I looked like this at what I was neglecting in my life that the penny dropped and I saw the link between how I felt about myself and my decisions to put myself last on the list.
I knew that to get out of that dark place I had to make some changes. I had to work out what I needed, and devote more time to those things.
So I started taking better care of myself, seeing more of my amazing friends, changed the way I work and scheduled in loads of family time. I went to festivals and realised how much I had missed music.
I made the decision to stop seeing myself as an afterthought.
At the end of last year, I finally started singing again after four years. It sounds simple – and it is – but the impact is profound.
Prioritising those needs has been life-changing for me. I think of them as my pots, and it’s my job to water them or they’ll suffer. The pots (my needs) are the different aspects of my identity that make me me. When I look after them, I’m happier and infinitely better off. (There’s much more about this and other confidence-boosting tools in our online programme and you can find out more here.)
I still do everything to care for others like I did before, but I say no to more stuff as well. I’ve still got a way to go (still desperately need to make time for fitness – story of my life) but I now feel infinitely more empowered and in control of my happiness.
Confidence comes from doing the things we love and the things that make us feel happy.
It’s far from selfish to include things for myself on the to-do list. In fact, the opposite is true. Everybody wins when I do.
So why is it that culturally we’re so adept at failing to see that we matter, too?