Self-care? What’s that? That was my thought when I first heard about the crazy, radical concept of self-nurture. That was two dozen years ago. I was pregnant with my 24-year-old and I was overwhelmed and feeling out of control.
Since then I’ve learned and relearned the value of self-care. I’ve learned through trial and error that job one in life no exceptions is minding my nutrition, exercising, being with friends, wearing only clothes that make me feel good, keeping my hair cut the way I like it, putting on lotion after my bath, taking at least a half hour each and every day all by myself just for myself, letting myself have naps and fun. And so on. (The list is ever-evolving.) Not to mention saying “No” to things that don’t feel right, no matter how worthy the request sounds, or how much I feel like I “should” comply.
Understanding that I need to respect my own needs, that’s hard. I forget, collapse, burnout or act out, then remember, again (often because some one who loves me reminds me). It’s so hard to remember because like lots of folks, especially women, I am hard-wired to think that taking care of myself is self-indulgent. Selfish. Ugly. The Puritan culture of my upbringing taught this; my family of origin supported it. Hard work and sacrifice, that’s what was called for. How you got your strength to keep on keeping on, well, that was your problem.
I’m not blaming, I’m just saying. They didn’t know a different way.
But I do. I’ve learned some truths about what enlightened selfishness is. I’m not talking about the attitude that says no matter what happens, good or bad, it’s all about me. No, I’m talking about honoring and supporting with actions our needs for love, connection, good health, serenity, sanity.
Here are few things I remember when the how-can-you-be-so-selfish bug bites. I keep these concepts in mind so that when that fool bug tries to make me feel guilty, I’m ready!
Okay, here goes:
• It’s good to give, but not what you don’t have.
• It doesn’t help the millions who have so much less than you do to keep your soul dry and unwatered.
• You can fully receive the abundance in your life in the name of those who don’t have what you have (even say a prayer for them), then use your well-nurtured skills and resources to help those in need.
• You must take care of yourself to take care of others. No one can get water from an empty well. Self-care is not a luxury. It’s not optional. It’s required.
• You don’t have to be hero, a saint or a martyr. Everyone has his or her role to play.
• People like people who are humble yet confident more than they like doormats. Self-care supports humility and confidence.
• Your higher power lives in the place where your self-care feeds and fuels your joy and your contribution to the world. Be in touch with where you feel loved. Go there in your mind as often as you can during each and every day.
• People will try to manipulate you to give you what you don’t want to give. “No” is a complete sentence. What’s good for you is good for the other guy, even if he doesn’t know it.
• If it truly feels bad, it is. Listen to what your body is telling you. The body knows.
• You are enough, you have enough, you do enough. Really.