I am often so stingy with myself- perhaps it is related to my recovering perfectionism, my constant inner critic telling me I don’t deserve nice things because I haven’t been good enough. Or perhaps it is from my scarcity complex reminding me how little income I’ve faced before and that I should be constantly scared of being back in that situation. Whatever the reason, it has been a long, ups and downs journey of learning to be more generous with myself- generous with my time, my money, and my expectations and forgiveness.
When I first started dating my husband, I told him to never buy me flowers because they were a waste of money and would just die. I truly meant it too. It seemed like an insane gesture and I did not understand why it was so popular aside from cynically believing that it just exposed how stupid people in love were. He outsmarted me on the first birthday of mine we spent together and got me a flower that wouldn’t die- a beautiful blown glass piece of art. I still have it (and get stressed out about it every time we move wondering if it will break) but a lot has changed-
Now I LOVE fresh flowers and feel insanely special any time someone sends them to me. They are extra beautiful to me precisely BECAUSE they are temporary and their beauty won’t last forever. Yet I am STILL too stingy with myself to buy them or ask my husband to buy them for me- it seems “OK” to harvest them from our garden because I put the work into growing them and I share them with my kids, but it still seems unspeakably lavish to buy myself a bouquet. I’ll spend hours finding just the right decor for my kids’ bedroom that I think will make them extra happy, but I’ll buy whatever is most on sale for me. I felt sinful buying bath projects from Lush even though a good bubble bath can reset my whole mental state… it took me years and years to ask for a staycation , and even then I only felt OK asking for it when combining it as my birthday, anniversary, and mothers day gifts.
I realize that I often fall into this pattern that self-deprecation is a virtue. If I martyr myself- if I get the least sleep, the least new clothes, the least splurges then I must be doing a good job as a mom. I think it is a really common and probably pretty toxic message that is around us all the time. It sometimes feels like the only splurge moms are allowed are sad hidden pantry snacks and wine. (And don’t get me wrong, I’ve indulged in both, but the constant messaging that this is the form of self care we should unquestioningly turn to is very disturbing). When I was reflecting on this in my Powersheets refresh, I started realizing I needed to take baby steps to stop being so stingy with myself. And I really do mean BABY steps.
I started with sending myself a postcard. I already had several postcards in my office, so this endeavor cost me five minutes and a fifty-five cent stamp. And you know what? It felt HARD. It felt ridiculous. It felt like something I was never going to tell anyone about. And then I received that postcard back to me in the mail a few days later and it felt playful, it felt like this burst of delight in the middle of a hot, stifling afternoon. It felt like the first step to recovering something.
My kids will make things for themselves all the time. They make an abundance of pictures and stories an projects for other friends and family members, but they also spend a ton of time just doing stuff for them- building towers how they want, not how anyone else expects or filling notebook after notebook with doodles that are just for them to experiment with or coloring a whole colorbook in various shades of a single color because it is their favorite color. When they have a chance to do these things it doesn’t make them selfish- it puts them in a mood where they are usually more patient with their siblings and more willing to help the family without grumbling. I’m doing my best to keep learning from my kids in this area.
So now I’m trying to include a line in our family budget for me- and trying to encourage my husband to do the same. These line items are not extravagant amounts of money so it breaks down to either a series of small things each week or one mid-range thing once a month, or saving up for a few months for something fancier (ie clothes that fit my changing postpartum body- I am letting myself slowly build a wardrobe that is not comprised solely of fast fashion clearance rack finds!) As I mentioned before, a favorite splurge was Bubble Bars from Lush. This fabulous new addition to our monthly budget is honestly something that makes me feel more relaxed than the monthly Starbucks budget I pulled that money from, and totally worth the trade off of simpler date nights as we’ve gotten very used to figuring out how to do at-home date nights like champions thanks to last year (and honestly one of the top dates on our wish list is just getting someone to watch our kids so we can go on a really long day hike together when the weather gets nicer!). I also started budgeting over the summer to print out a scrapbook in addition to our family yearbook that tells some of my own stories and pieces of wisdom that I’d like to pass on to the kids. That is something I truly think will be valuable for both myself right now with the chance to tell my story, and for our kids in the future because sometimes these topics don’t easily come up in conversation. I would never have suggested this if I hadn’t taken some small baby steps and done this inner work of believing I am worthy of good things. Next- working my way up to splurging on fresh flowers. Not quite at that baby step, but I’m getting there…
What is your favorite way to be generous with yourself? Or something that you had to break down into a baby step as small as a self-sent postcard before you started seeing progress? I’d love to hear about it.