Are You Underestimating the Value of Self Care?

Are You Underestimating the Value of Self Care?

I have ultra curly hair. Those that share this characteristic likely understand how it can be both a blessing and a curse. As a kid, I hated my hair. While everyone fawned over how amazing and adorable it was, I just wanted to look like the girls with perfectly straight hair. In my mind, straight hair meant fabulous and curls just meant pain and frustration.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to embrace the curls. I can’t escape them, unless I want to get up early every morning and use a straightener. Let’s be honest; my standard work uniform is yoga pants and a t-shirt. I’m too lazy for the straightener. So instead of spending half an hour brushing knots out of my hair, I’ve learned to keep it from becoming a tangled mess. That means either cutting it short enough the curls are manageable or tossing it into a loose bun where it stays out of my face and off my shoulders.

Unfortunately, I’ve always been really picky about who touches my hair. I think this has a lot to do with growing up with an aunt who was a hairdresser (and a fabulous one at that). I never had to let another person so much as trim my hair until I turned eighteen and moved out of the country. For a long time, I got by with visiting my mother-in-law’s hair dresser whenever we went to visit my husband’s family. But we haven’t been to visit them the past two years because we spent last Christmas at Disney World and they have, instead, been visiting us during the summers.

Which means I went almost two years without cutting my hair.

I didn’t mean to. From the time we moved here, I’ve been aware I needed to find my own hairdresser, especially if this is our forever town. And it’s so hot here in the summer, short hair is a godsend. But things were so busy during the second half of 2017, I kept putting it off. It always seemed less important than preparing for company, or helping a friend move, or getting this or that book project finished before something else came up. I kept ticking off the boxes on things that were important, and a haircut just stayed at the bottom of the list for six months.

Until one day, I picked up a pair of scissors and seriously considered just hacking my ponytail off. My hair had become so completely unmanageable that I hated it. It was too heavy to curl nicely, too long to keep up; I had to play some weird loopy puzzle game just to keep it off my neck and out of my face. The ends were damaged and unhealthy. I didn’t even like looking at it. And I realized that even a terrible hair cut would be better than what I had.

I made an appointment and counted down the days. I even apologized to the hairdresser the first time she saw what she was dealing with, because I’m sure it wasn’t pretty.

She had only cut one side of my hair when I breathed a deep sigh of relief and announced “I love it already.”

I talked a lot in 2017 about how I let my life get out of control. I overworked. I underslept. I neglected my health in favor of getting more work done. And this was just another side effect, another neglected aspect of self-care that I didn’t realize until way too late. That hairdresser didn’t just cut away the excess weight of my hair, she cut away the unhealthy burden I had been piling on my shoulders. She didn’t just cut away the damaged ends of hair strands, she cut away months of unhealthy habits.

And for the first time in months, I felt like I could breathe again.

It wasn’t about treating myself to something special. It wasn’t about pampering myself – although I did feel pampered. It was about taking time out of my busy schedule and devoting it to myself. It was about making something I needed more important than something work-related, more important than a favor for a friend, or some other random thing that cropped up. It was about getting myself what I needed to feel healthy and happy.

I certainly never imagined a simple hair cut could make that big a difference. But I’ve also learned my lesson. The next time darkness closes in, I’m going to take a good, hard look at myself and ask what I may have neglected to allow myself to reach this state. Mental and physical health are at least as important as reaching my writing goals – more important, in fact, since I can’t reach my writing goals if I don’t feel happy and healthy.

So I encourage you to evaluate how well you’re taking care of your own needs. If you find yourself constantly putting off personal stuff because it seems less important; stop! Give yourself the bump to the top of the list. Protect your personal time, whatever you use it for. You’ll feel a lot better if you do!

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