We all know how important self-care is. And yet, as a health and fitness coach, I talk with people all the time who say that they put everyone else first and suffer for it. Of course, from time to time, we all have too much on our proverbial plates and literally run out of time in a day to do something nice for good ol’ number one.
Some of us, though, make a habit of ignoring ourselves and running ourselves into the ground taking care of family and friends.
Sometimes this is okay — I’m not suggesting you ignore cries for help when people around you need assistance and you’re the best one to give it. I am suggesting that sometimes when we put others first, what we are really doing is hiding from the hard work of living our own lives.
Prioritizing others becomes an excuse to ignore the help we should be giving ourselves and consequently ignoring the potential impact we can have on the world. It’s like we have a tiny voice in our head that says, “If I don’t have time to take care of myself then I won’t feel pressured to be amazing and share all of my talents.”
Maybe you have an amazing idea or passion hiding inside of you, but putting that idea on paper, on the Internet, or into practice is scary. It might mean you get criticized or, worse yet, ignored. So instead you get busy making lunches for the kids and cleaning the house, i.e. taking care of everyone else — and your ideas and passion never see the light of the day.
It’s time to stop playing small and to nurture the incredible human being inside of you.
How? Here’s a technique I came across last year in a post by Wil Wheaton on his blog. Yes, Wesley Crusher can teach you to take care of you.
The Totally Trippy Concept of “Future You”
Stop thinking that you are taking care of yourself. You’re not. That would be selfish and you are definitely not selfish. You are taking care of the “Future You.”
Future You is not you.
Future You is a distinct, separate person outside of your current existence. And, from this day forward, you’re going to treat the future you really well. You’re going to do things today not for yourself, now, but for the you that’s not here yet. The “you” you’ve yet to create.
Because somewhere out there in the cosmos you’re waiting for yourself.
Future You is a completely different individual than the one you see and feel today. See that future you as a real, whole person. Somebody you care about — and that you are responsible for caring for. She’s different. She’s whole. She’s real.
This may seem like a trippy, new-agey concept, but there is a real and physiological basis to it. Thanks to your cells constantly dying and regenerating, you’re a different person than you used to be anywhere from a few days to a few years ago. Your digestive tract, blood, liver and other organs, and even your bones are all “new” every so often.
Your brain is included in that process, even if the brain cells do not regenerate like other cells in your body. Your brain houses memory, feelings, and sensations and anchors us in our self. And, being the sentient creatures that we are, we have the ability to learn, develop, forget, and grow wiser.
Which means we have the ability to change.
So, we are not the same person we were yesterday or last year or ten years ago.
We can literally rewire our future selves to be different than we are today. How? By doing something for that Future You today — spend ten minutes meditating, get an extra hour of sleep, go to the gym. Remember, it’s not about you — it’s about Future You. You are responsible for that being.
Tell Future You How Much You Care
If you keep a journal, whether paper or digital, make a list of all the things you are doing for Future You and why those things are important. Let her know you are paying attention and that you believe she will do incredible things for those around her and for her future self as well.
If you keep a paper journal, flip forward to a page that corresponds to a date, several weeks or months or even years from now. On that page, write a note that you want Future You to look at. Once you’ve written that note, forget about it. That note’s not for you. It’s for future you, and she will read it when the time is right.
You might even keep a separate “future” journal specifically for all the notes you want to write to Future You. You can do the same thing with a digital journal. Most note-taking apps or digital journals come with a reminder feature. Write a note to Future You and set a reminder for next month or next year or whenever you want Future You to read that note.
Cooler yet, send Future You an email. It’s a thing. Go to Future Me and send your future self a message. It can be a note about what’s going on, a reminder to do something, a poke about that thing you were so worried about. Have fun with it.
Enjoying yourself and being creative is an awesome thing to do for Future You.
What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?
I know this may sound like semantics, but once you start playing around with the concept of your future self it starts to make a lot of sense.
How often do you hear an interviewer ask a famous person who has achieved something admirable, “What would you tell your younger self?” It’s an interesting concept and such an often-used question because we all experience that the past you is not the present you.
The powerful part is that this works in both directions.
Future You needs you to pay attention to her. She’s counting on you to do what’s best for her. And I know you. You are the kind of person who will give anything and everything without a second thought to a complete stranger, let alone someone you care about.
So give whenever and whatever you can to Future You because, right now, you’re all she has.