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“The pursuit of your own happiness is enough of a reason to make a major change.”
Every Sunday, Oprah is setting an intention for the upcoming week—exclusively for
Oprah Insiders—with reflections on themes like letting go, forgiveness, coming into your own, and more. Every day this week, you’ll find advice on how to choose yourself and prioritize your personal well-being—inspired by Oprah’s recent interview with Adele.
When was the last time you treated yourself with the same care and consideration that you provide to your kids? If you’re like most parents, it’s probably been at least a few weeks—if not months or even years. But according to licensed therapist Nedra Glover Tawwab, author of Set Boundaries, Find Peace, choosing to make yourself the top priority can actually make you a better parent. Ahead, she explains why self-care is an important part of parenting, and how she regularly makes time for it.
Oprah Daily: What does it mean to “choose yourself?”
Nedra Glover Tawwab: Prioritizing your needs. Prioritizing your intentions. Prioritizing your values. This leads to higher esteem and more joy because you are acting in your best interest. We tend to have more issues with society—and with people in our lives—when we are operating on their program and not our own.
OD: This topic is particularly relevant for parents. How can parents navigate choosing themselves—even in what is an all-encompassing and very demanding role?
NGT: The way things are set up, women have a huge responsibility—often more so than the father. There’s the pressure we put on ourselves and from the outside world telling us, “This is what you should be doing as a mother and a parent.” Many of the people who are doing all of the things that society says they should do are stressed, anxious, depressed, or on the verge of having some sort of mental health collapse. We really have to pull back and say, “Is this the healthiest way to parent? What research is supporting this?”
The idea that you are now taking time for yourself creates an environment where you can parent in a more relaxed way. Choosing yourself creates an environment in which you’re less resentful of your children. You’re more appreciative of the people in your life.
OD: What does choosing yourself actually look like when you’re a parent?
NGT: For many parents, it can be hard to even consider putting yourself first because kids have so many needs. But it’s not being selfish or harming or denying your kids. It’s saying, “I will do this for myself. I will take a few minutes away from you to do this other thing.” If you have an infant, that could look like putting the baby down for ten minutes and being able to eat your food and not dragging that process out because you’re trying to multitask. If your kids are older, that could look like listening to the music you like in the car.
There are times when I say, “I’m on the phone. This is my moment. I’ll be with you in a moment.” It’s OK to have those times apart. It’s healthy for you to desire to be with your family and to have that separation. Sometimes my kids like to wake up a little bit early to join me in my mediation practice. We talk about the boundaries of that. I’ll say, “You can meditate with me, but make sure you’re not talking during meditation.” These sorts of things happen. Life happens. I can’t stop life from happening. But I can say, “If you’re going to be in this space with me, this is how I invite you to be here.”
OD: How can modeling the practice of ”choosing yourself” benefit children?
NGT: If we model complete selflessness that is what kids will try to be. They’ll think being nice is not having boundaries—and never standing up for yourself. That being nice is doing more than you actually can. Then they will have this unhealthy way of functioning in their lives and their relationships. If you want them to understand that it’s OK to choose yourself, you have to model that behavior. You can talk them through it. You can say, “I’ve had a really long day. I’m choosing to take 30 minutes before I get to this next thing.” You can tell kids what you’re doing, so they understand that when you have a long day, you have permission to choose yourself.
No matter your age, job, or lifestyle, we’re guessing one thing is certain: You’d love to have a little more time for whatever makes you feel best, whether that’s completing a 30-minute yoga class, expanding your meditation practice, or spending a few hours curled up with a good book.
Well, here’s the good news: There are ways to take care of yourself that don’t uproot your whole schedule. In her bestselling book Better Than Before, author and Oprah Daily columnist Gretchen Rubin recommends treating yourself to daily, small indulgences—simply because you want to, not because you earned it. “When we give ourselves treats, we feel energized, cared for, and contented, which boosts our self-command,” she writes.
With that in mind, we asked Oprah Daily’s creative director Adam Glassman to share the little gifts he gives himself throughout the day. He says, “You have to take care of yourself first—otherwise you are of no use to anyone else.”
“Getting a great night’s sleep is high on my hit parade,” he says. “I’m a big proponent of the Pillow Bar, a Dallas-based company whose pillows are handmade in the United States. I use their U-shaped pillow because I’m a side-sleeper…it really makes a difference.”
"For me, ‘me time’ is synonymous with a bubble bath. I highly recommend the one we featured on 2021’s Favorite Things list. The scent is called Imagine. It’s a light floral scent with hints of willow and lotus.”
"Meditation is a huge part of my self-care practice. I always burn these to clear the energy in a room. Then, I look for a blanket to cuddle up with.”
For more of Adam’s pampering picks, click here.
“The pursuit of your own happiness is enough of a reason to make a major change,” Oprah said in this week’s intention video. Setting forth to live a bold expression of your own truth is something that Cheryl Strayed, bestselling author of Wild, is quite familiar with. At 26, Strayed was reeling from the recent death of her beloved mother, the end of her marriage, and an addiction to heroin. She headed out on a 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail—that was at times arduous, at times terrifying, and ultimately clarifying.
Reflecting on her journey with Oprah in 2017, Strayed says that finding the courage to beat your own path to happiness all comes down to embracing risk. Or, as she puts it, “Being brave enough to break your own heart.” Only through that attitude can other good things come: intimacy, vulnerability, and wonderful stories, like the ones she tells in Wild. “Being brave enough to break your own heart is about being brave enough to make the decisions that end up being really right for you,” she says.
As Strayed explains in this excerpt from their conversation, that may mean allowing yourself to follow your heart even when it suddenly changes direction.
Oprah Winfrey: “Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea that you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore.” Where did that one come from?
Cheryl Strayed: Well, how long do we hold onto this old idea? I was going to do this job, or I was going to go to this school, or I was going to be married to this person, and it doesn’t serve us anymore. And, you know, where that came from is I was asked to write a letter to my 20-something self in my book Tiny, Beautiful Things, and that was one of the things I told my younger self. That it was okay to rewrite my story from time to time—and not only okay but necessary. Sometimes you do have to see things through even though they don’t cause you joy, but sometimes you need to say, “You know what? I’m not going to surrender my joy. I’m not going to be this thing anymore. I’m going to be this other thing. This other way.”
OW: That’s such a more beautiful, eloquent, poetic way of saying “Stop holding onto the past.” But so many people are living right now based upon what they thought or what they wanted or what they imagined.
CS: Right—and that story’s not true.
OW: That story is no longer true. How do you wake up and realize that story isn’t true?
CS: I think it’s not about waking up one morning, though it does sometimes feel that way. Being awake to our lives is in some ways a daily process. Checking in with this idea of: What is my intention? You said intention is your favorite word, and I remember at some point recently, the two of us talking and you had counseled me. You said, “Cheryl, always ask yourself, what is your intention?” And I think that being awake to those stories you tell yourself about yourself is about reminding yourself always what is your intention.
For more inspiration from Oprah and Cheryl Strayed, watch the full Super Soul Sunday episode.
To prioritize your personal wellbeing, it’s essential that you understand how you really feel—not to mention what you really want. And to do that, you need to listen to what Oprah has called life’s whispers. That’s because your inner voice is exquisitely attuned to helping you to live true to your values, to focus on what matters, and, ultimately, to become more of yourself—which Oprah says is “your real job on Earth.” Here, she shares the importance of living authentically, as well as what happens when you ignore what’s happening within.
"If you’ve been faking it, ignoring your thoughts and feelings (what I call your emotional GPS), the wake-up call can be harsh.
The call often comes in the form of what, on the surface, looks like loss: loss of a job, a relationship, your looks, or whatever external thing you use to find value in yourself. When you excavate deeper, examining more closely every situation that has fallen apart, you will find truth gone awry.
I know for sure that we each contribute to the whole of what it means to be a human on earth. The fullness of our humanity can be expressed only when we are true to ourselves. Your real job on earth is to become more of who you really are. To live to the highest degree what is pure, what is honest, what is natural, what feels like the real you. Anything less is a faked life."
Read Oprah’s full reflection on living with authenticity here.
Whether because of guilt, flattery, or something else entirely, it can be tempting (and, let’s face it, even easier) to say yes to things you don’t actually want to do. But that desire to constantly make others happy can come at a high price—namely, your own wants, needs, and wellbeing—which is exactly why you should learn to say no more frequently. But as our editor at large Gayle King will attest, that’s often easier said than done. Here, she shares a few simple strategies—courtesy of well-boundaried people who will give no for an answer.
“Remember that ‘No’ is a complete sentence.” I read that years ago in Gavin DeBecker’s book The Gift of Fear, and to this day, it’s still something I’m working on. You’d think by now I would’ve mastered it—and from time to time, I think I have—but I get asked to do or attend so many things, and I have a really hard time saying no to people. The line that gets me without fail is when someone says, “It would mean so much to me if…” It would mean so much to me if you could come to my premiere, if you could moderate this panel I’m on, if you could attend my birthday party. Oprah always asks me, “It would mean so much to them—but what does it mean to you?” Nine times out of ten, the answer is that it doesn’t mean anything to me. So no matter how packed your schedule is or how many things you’re doing for other people, make sure to take a moment and ask yourself, “For what?”
The truth is that nothing should come at the expense of your own wellbeing. But sometimes when you have a lot on your plate, you have to make choices—and those choices can be difficult. (One rule that’s particularly helpful: If you’re on the fence about something, chances are, you shouldn’t be doing it.) In fact, it’s something I’m dealing with right now because I’m finding that my plate seems to be full all of the time. For example, this past weekend, I was in Los Angeles for two different interviews, and then on Sunday, I was supposed to attend the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington D.C. Even though I love the Kennedy Center Honors, I realized there was no way I could swing it. So instead, I didn’t leave my house, I didn’t get dressed, and there wasn’t any book I had to read or movie I had to watch for work—I could simply just be. And let me tell you, it was heavenly. I can’t remember the last time I had a day like that.
But here’s the other thing: When I can’t attend something, I feel I have to explain my decision, and I have to do so in great detail. At Nora Ephron’s funeral, someone read an RSVP she’d once written, and it said something like, ”Dear so and so, I value our friendship, I care about you so much, I’m very excited for you, and it breaks my heart to say no you to, but I must.” I thought, God, that is such a great way to decline an invitation. Not only was she saying I care about you and I support you, but she also offered no explanation. Just, “but I must!”
Oh, and if, like me, you suffer from the fear of missing out, one more thing to keep in mind is that there will always be something equally great at a later time. So don’t think, Well, if I don’t do this, there won’t ever be something quite as fun. Because that’s simply not true!”
News flash: It’s perfectly okay—actually, essential—to put yourself first in a relationship. And despite what you might have heard or assumed, you can do so without walking away from your partner. “It seems like a binary idea: I’m going to choose myself, or I’m going to choose you,” says therapist Elizabeth Earnshaw, clarifying that there are relationships worth leaving. “In reality, though, we can choose ourselves and still be in many relationships.”
According to Earnshaw—who is also the author of I Want This to Work—people most often desire to put themselves front and center after feeling like they’ve lost themselves. “To be within their relationships, they feel that they’ve had to betray themselves in some way, or go outside of their values,” she explains. “What they’re saying is, ‘I want to be me again. I want my needs to matter. I want my opinions and influencers to matter. I want to be seen here.’”
Sound familiar? Here are a few more signs that you might’ve lost touch with the person you once were.
If any of the above signs strike a chord, here are a few ways you can start to prioritize your personal well-being.
After taking these steps, pay attention to how your partner responds—particularly if they push back when you set limits. If that’s the case, then it might be time to consider whether it’s still the right space for you to be in, according to Earnshaw. On the other hand, you may discover that taking care of yourself has actually improved your capacity to care for your partner and your relationship. Says Earnshaw, “Being able to hold onto ourselves while still keeping the other person in view allows us to have a much more equitable relationship, where we can both be better.”
These past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about Adele and our One Night Only conversation that we had for CBS. Such a beautiful conversation and concert. And beautiful album. You can feel her heart and soul in every lyric on 30. Her emotional pain, she seems to have used as a muse—I said that to her during our conversation.
You know by now that she wrote that album while going through a divorce. She told me that she left her marriage “in pursuit of her own happiness.” She has so many meaningful things to say about choosing you and not being guilty about it. The pursuit of your own happiness is enough of a reason to make a major change like Adele did. Let that sink in for a minute.
So how did Adele find the bravery to trust herself and uproot her life? I asked her just that, and her answer struck me. She told me that she imagined the person that she would want her 9-year-old son to know. When she was unhappy, which she was in the marriage, her son wasn’t getting the best version of her. So Adele dedicated the album to him as a way of telling him what she was going through.
So of course Adele’s situation is specific to her, but the greater lesson can apply to everyone. So many women stay in miserable situations, whether it’s their job, their friendships, their romantic relationships, and even encounters with family members because they don’t feel that they have the strength or the right to let go. They might feel scared to put themselves first. To listen to that voice that’s in your spirit saying, "Do what’s best for you. Make the change."
The best thing I gathered from this new 30 album, along with being soothed by the music—it’s such a great album—is an even more compelling understanding that choosing happiness for yourself is what truly allows you to begin bringing happiness to other people. So during the holiday season, we’ve already been conditioned to give and give and give to others. But it’s important to make time for yourself, too. That care is the gift you give to yourself.
And that’s what we’re taking away from this week, I’m hoping. Being able to choose what’s right for you and knowing when it is right. We have advice from therapists, wisdom from Cheryl Strayed, and so much more. Choosing yourself: That’s our intention this week. Have a great week.
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