In 2017, Treat Yourself Like a 5-Year-Old

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I know you don’t want to sleep, but it’s past your bedtime.

Sometimes it takes coming face-to-face with a concept more than once for me to understand. I can’t be alone with this – why is it that we all know we need to take better care of ourselves, but do nothing about it? Here’s a bit of context:

2016 was full of firsts for me: the biggie was that I gave birth to a child. The only thing I knew was that I had no idea what to expect. My child could have been born 8 weeks early and could have required tons and tons of additional medical expertise. She might have been colicky and fussy and not wanted to breastfeed. I didn’t know…? After 8 months I still don’t know. She’s doing dog-like, exciting things like rolling over, sitting up and eating mushy foods, but she may decide next week that she no longer wants to nap (cue screechy horror music).

When I decided that I wanted to be a mom, I made a commitment to take care of this tiny human being, naps or no naps —for a good long while (maybe around 18 years?). For sure, I knew that I was making a commitment to wake once or twice in the middle of the night to change a dirty diaper and feed a helpless, hungry little mouth. And in the midst of taking care of this tiny person I remembered a conversation I had with a good friend nine years ago.

If only this was what actually happens with a newborn baby.
If only this was what actually happens with a newborn baby.

During a very trying time in my life (divorce, moving, uncertain financial future, losing my mind trying to maintain my work and art) my friend pulled me aside and told me I need to take care of myself. Thanks for the obvious advice, friend. I knew that…or did I? And if I did, why was I doing nothing about it?

Eating nutritious food? Working out? Personal hygiene? Getting enough sleep? Well, let’s just say that I was failing on all accounts.

My friend provided me with an analogy I return to often: She said that I needed to imagine myself as the 5 year-old me. Awww, isn’t that 5 year-old cute? Of course she is, but she doesn’t know that healthy food fuels her. She also doesn’t know that playing outside is good for getting fresh air and Vitamin D, releasing endorphins and making the body feel good. She doesn’t want a bedtime, but you know that if she gets a good night’s sleep, then she’ll have a better tomorrow. So, take her by the hand and guide her through these things. Read her a bedtime story and tuck her in.

Even through the tumult of having a child, I still needed to commit to myself. When it comes to taking care of ourselves, it’s not about motivation, it’s about commitment.

Maybe it’s too much for you to imagine committing to a child. Have you ever had a dog or a cat? Maybe a plant? Did you water it and set it in the sunlight? Then you’ve made a commitment before. I bet that you weren’t waiting for divine inspiration to water that plant. You weren’t waiting to be in the right mood, to have the right shoes or a good playlist, to have time after the big presentation, or to have a day off from work, or for the weather to be nice—you just took care of the darn plant. Why? Because it’s not about motivation, it’s about commitment. When taking responsibility for something, you make a commitment to take care of it. Why is it so easy to do that for literally everything else but yourself?

Congrats on your new leafy commitment!
Congrats on your new leafy commitment!

I hear too often that folks haven’t found the motivation to be active. If you saw the five-year-old you standing in front of you, would you be a bit more diligent about the commitment to take care of yourself? Being active is one of those important life things. You can commit to walking the dog, but do you commit to walking yourself?

Even though I am now committed to taking care of this sweet little babe, I can’t wait for motivation to brush my teeth, nourish my body and give my poor joints and muscles love. I am still capable of and have a responsibility to take care of MYSELF. It makes me a better mom and sets a good example for my daughter. I didn’t give up my sense of SELF when I had a child. As far as I know, this is the only chance at life we get and taking good care of me makes me a better ME.

One of the most poignant things I learned this year was something I knew all along: When it comes to taking care of myself, it’s not about motivation, it’s about commitment. So in 2017, commit to yourself and take care of that five-year-old you.