I’ve adapted this blog from one I wrote recently for The Garden to mark International Women’s Day. As such, it’s primarily written with women in mind – though the underlying message is one that applies to everyone.

Over the years, my kids have asked me to write a fair few permission slips allowing them to go on a school trip or to get out of a PE class or whatever. But how often do we write ourselves a permission slip? Hmmmm… I’m guessing practically never.

Let’s face it: we women are Olympians at caring for others (after all, it’s what we’re hard-wired to do). But when it comes to looking after ourselves… well, we’re shirkers, aren’t we?

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard from women the lengths they go to make sure their children are properly fed with a freshly-prepared, nutrition-packed meal – and yet they themselves make do with gobbling down whatever they can grab while standing up by the fridge. They don’t even feel they deserve to sit down at a table to eat – not when there’s so much to do and so many people to run around after. Or they’ll buy a piece of fish for everyone else in the family – but not themselves. No, they’ll make do.

‘Never mind me.’

‘You enjoy.’

‘I’m fine.’

‘I don’t need a proper meal.’

‘As long as there’s enough for you.’

Sound familiar?

Well, I say, enough of making do. Enough of believing it’s an indulgence to have breakfast. Enough of believing it would be an unthinkable luxury and a dereliction of duty to take even five minutes to put your feet up.

I think that a lot of the reason we kick against taking time off for ourselves is because we do tend to be super-efficient at the never-ending job of running things for everyone else.

The upshot of that is getting locked in a self-defeating cycle of always putting others before ourselves. But here’s the thing: taking care of everyone’s needs before you take care of yourself and your own needs is a sure-fire route to burnout (and we all know what happens when we burn out – we can’t help anyone at all).

Let’s say it loud and clear: the very best thing you can do for yourself (and others!) is give yourself permission to prioritise self-care.

So, when you’re tired, give yourself permission to put your feet up or go to bed early. If your tummy’s growling and telling you that you’re hungry, don’t just ignore it and plough on. Sit down and eat. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed or sad or unappreciated, make the time to do something nice for yourself, whether it’s a hot bath or a solitary walk in nature… whatever makes you feel at peace. Yes, there may be lots of jobs still to do that you didn’t get round to finishing. But guess what? They’ll be waiting for you tomorrow and you might well find yourself with a lot more energy to do them once you’ve given yourself permission to take some time off.

As women, we know how to sacrifice ourselves for our kids and go to the ends of the Earth to make sure they’re well. How about turning some of that maternal love on ourselves? So, rather than constantly barking “no time to stop, you need to crack on, so much to do” at yourself, how about saying this to yourself: “you’ve been working so hard, sweetie. Sit down, relax, I’ll make you a cup of tea”.

If the thought of being kind to yourself seems terrifying and alien, just start with one little thing that you can promise yourself. Even if it’s just the simple act of sitting down to eat your lunch.

Because women need nourishing too and, in the immortal words of L’Oreál’s leading ladies, “you’re worth it”.

So, over to you now. What will your permission slip say? How will you treat yourself differently today, this week, this month? I’d love to hear so leave me a comment!

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