What makes you happy?

When do we learn self-care?  Are we born with it?  Do we get a magical download from the universe with all of the secrets of taking care of ourselves?

Not exactly. 

Interestingly, we learn self-care as kids by playing, exploring and trying new things.  We learn how to manage failure and when to ask for help.  We learn how we should be treated by how our family, friends and teachers treat us.  We learn boundaries.  We learn how to recognize that we’re tired and need a break.  And we spend time doing the stuff that makes us happy.

Or…we don’t.

One of the most challenging questions to ask an adult woman in this: what makes you happy?  It could be a relationship or an activity.  Something you do alone or with others.  Doesn’t matter what it is…as long as it makes you happy. 

It’s not an easy question to answer.

For a lot of us, the bigger challenge is identifying what happiness feels like.  We’ve spent so much time taking care of everyone else that we are quite skilled at not feeling our feelings – even the good ones.  And if you had a hard or really stressful childhood, you may be exquisitely skilled at not feeling those feelings. 

At this point, it can be really easy to slip into feeling ashamed or weak or like we’re not good enough.  We may look back and shrug any possible childhood drama off because others have definitely been through worse situations.  It is easy to discount what we’ve survived.

If you were to look back at your childhood and imagine a young child you care about going through the same situations and experiences, what would you say to her? 

Maybe you’d give her a huge hug and tell her that none of what’s going on in life is her fault.  That it’s not her job to try and fix things for her parents.  That she’s important and valuable and amazingly brave and strong. 

Maybe you’d tell her that you know she is simply doing the best she can.  Maybe you’d tell her that you know how badly those words or actions from someone else hurt – but they don’t define her or her value.

Maybe you’d say you love her.

If you would say it to that other child, consider saying it to yourself.  Because the words are just as true for you as they are for her. 

So what does all this childhood drama stuff have to do with self-care?  When we learn from an early age, whether intended or not, that we can’t have or enforce personal boundaries and that we are responsible for taking care of everyone else before we take care of ourselves, we don’t learn self-care.  Boundaries are blurred.  We lose the ability to say, “I’m tired and I need a break”.  We lose track of what makes us happy. 

One of the biggest steps in learning self-care, whether as a child or an adult, is knowing what makes you happy so you can do more of that stuff.  The goal is to increase your happy.  Why?  Because that is taking care of you. 

Sixty-Second Self-Care Tip

OK, my Friend...it's your turn.  Your turn to answer the big question.  

In preparation, find a slip of paper or a small notebook that you use for your thoughts and dedicate a page to this question.  Yes, you can sit and just think about it...but I want you to actually write a list, a reference list.  Seem silly?  Yeah, maybe...but your mind and body respond differently to writing things down.  As you write things down, stuff that has long been lost to memory may come up - scribble it down before it is lost again.  And once you have a list - long or short - you have a resource to consult when life gets heavy and happiness is hard to find.

Ready?  Here is the question...  What makes you happy?  


60-second self-care, happiness, resilience, self-care, stress, Your Story

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