A long time to go without thinking of self-care as anything other than an occasional massage or pedicure or anything beyond routine maintenance (brushing my teeth, exercising, eating well, or getting a haircut). A very long time to hold the belief that everyone else’s needs were more important than my own.
A long time to believe that self-care was luxurious – only for the rich and famous! Certainly not for someone who was a mom working full-time. Self-care was for those who could afford a spa weekend, a decadent vacation, indulgent time for getting away. Yes, this is honestly the belief I held as I think about it now. Wow!
Thankfully, in 2014 a friend invited me to a retreat with my now dear friend, mentor, and self-proclaimed self-care evangelist, Renee Trudeau. I don’t remember the title of the retreat and had never heard of Renee, but I do remember my heart skipping a beat and my breath catching in my throat as I took in the title of her book, The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate, and Re-Balance Your Life! Whoa!! So many powerful words in just one title…
What the heck is that??
Wait…what?? How is that possible? I’ve been known as my boys’ mom for 20 years now. Do I really have a life of my own out there waiting for me to reclaim it? Ooooohhhh… I wonder what might be out there in that vast unknown territory!
Yeah, I get that one, and I definitely need a little infusion of rejuvenation in this worn-out, exhausted body and soul! Sign me up!!
Balance?? What’s that? I’ve pretty much been trained and conditioned to believe that I am here for the sole purpose of taking care of others. Making sure my kids are happy, healthy, entertained, and well-socialized. Making sure the program I managed was also happy, healthy, and thriving – that the people who worked for me were taken care of and had the support they needed. Taking care of my mom since I was a teen…
These were pretty novel and foreign concepts that instantly awakened my heart with a deep yearning!
It is not an exaggeration to say that that weekend in January 2014 turned my life around completely, personally and professionally. Sitting in a circle of about 50 women, I saw that only a handful of us even knew it was OK for us to be there. Since then, I have committed my work to supporting others in making self-care part of daily living. We all need it.
Self-care is NOT:
Self-care is NOT one more thing on your to-do list.
Self-care is not something you can accomplish and check off your list!
Self-care is not even something you can master.
Self-care IS a practice. A practice that runs counter to our cultural conditioning. To take it on is not easy. To stay with it… even harder. Until you really have worked with it long enough that it’s truly integrated into your life, you cannot know how strongly this practice sustains you. You need to give it a go to see how it can carry you through your darkest times and most difficult struggles.
We, as women, truly believe that we are meant to be able to do it all. You know that old song, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan…” Yeah, yeah, yeah… sure you can! Well, you probably can and you probably have. And, maybe it’s taking a toll on you today! This mindset has done a number on us, pushing us to do more, be more, and give more… endlessly. Even putting our own wellbeing at stake.
A Real-Life Example
Recently a friend (who is a very politically active working single mom of twins!) posted about giving herself the gift of some time off. She caught herself with this stretch of open time – time that could have been a great time to “get a lot done.” Her first response was to chastise herself for “wasting time taking care of herself.” Ouch!
Thankfully, she stopped herself and saw how often she tries to rationalize her self-care, believing she needs to defend it or deserve it in order to have it (after all, she truly does give so much to so many others!). She also realized that she did not need to justify, defend, or deserve it! She saw that self-care does not depend on worth, but that it is a critical need, just like breath. Hallelujah!
Self-care is our Birthright
You see, my friends, self-care is our birthright. It’s our obligation. After all, we’ve been given these bodies and these lives. We are here to make a contribution. If we don’t care for ourselves, who will? If we don’t care for our bodies and lives, how will we be able to show up for anything or anyone else? How can we possibly bring forth our gifts to make the world a better place if we are stressed out and depleted to the max??
It has to begin at home. With us caring for ourselves. Self-care means to know yourself well enough that you know what your needs and desires are.
Self-care is all about honoring yourself, at least as well you honor everyone else in your life, if not better.
Self-care requires time. Time to slow down. Time to quiet the outside noise. Time to be with yourself to listen to the inner wisdom and guidance of your heart, your soul, and your body. Can you imagine time better spent?
We feel we don’t have time for this one vital piece of life! And yet, you can’t afford to not commit this time to yourself. Your health depends on it. Your joy depends on it. And, your legacy depends on it!
When you give yourself the gift of time and space, you can discern what works for you. You can discover YOUR way of doing things. Where are you called to serve? What is yours to do? What isn’t? What can you let go of that no longer serves or fulfills you? What boundaries do you want to set for your own wellbeing?
Please share with us how this lands for you. What might you try for the next few days or weeks? We’d love to hear your reflection and insight.