When your self-care isn’t enough
Written by: Zeina Alturk
A few months ago, I was discussing a validation scale with my best friends. This validation scale had 3 points: low, just right, and high standards of validation. “Validation” referred to statements we made to ourselves, statements like, “You are better than this,” “You deserve better than him,” or “You shouldn’t feel this way; you are amazing.” We briefly spoke about the different kinds of validation we gave ourselves and ranked them on this scale. Almost all of the validation statements fell on the high part of the scale. And almost all the statements seemed to invalidate our current feelings and dictate what we should be feeling instead. “You are amazing….don’t be sad!… you shouldn’t feel worthless!”
For many of us, statements like these work to uplift us in the moment, remind us just who we are. But they also prevent us from living in the moment. Why can’t I be sad because of something that just happened? There wasn’t anything necessarily wrong with feeling down. Sadness is an emotion we will feel often as human beings, one that we should be able to feel without quickly telling ourselves to stop feeling it and feel happy instead. We re-evaluated and came up with the just right versions of these statements (just right is subjective). These statements included, “I am sad right now and that’s okay,” and “I miss x person even though they treat me y way, and I am allowed to feel this way.” We normalized our emotions. We gave ourselves permission to feel freely. It liberated us in a way; we no longer had to “feeling-switch” to legitimize our existence.
Historically, from my 5+ years of practicing self-care, my high standards of validation were about reminding myself that I was amazing and great and that I shouldn’t feel some type of way (see: sad, depressed, down, anxious) because I was amazing and great. But the more I tried to practice this type of self-care, the worse I felt, because I couldn’t shake off the sadness. I felt guilty for being unable to move away from destructive statements to uplifting ones. Then the self-gaslighting began. I found myself digging a hole so big that I could no longer see a light to get out. I stayed in that hole until I was able to sift through the emotional turmoil and find that the self-care I was practicing wasn’t enough. It wasn’t working for me, and it wasn’t working for my best friends either.
It sometimes confuses me. Why didn’t we just allow ourselves to feel? Let’s get rid of the idea that self-care comes in one form, one correct form. It exists in the form that you feel helps you heal permanently. A form that soothes your soul, that empowers you to remember your greatness while also embracing your sadness. Give yourself permission to exist in the moment, no matter what it is you’re feeling. Create your own validation statements.
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