SO much talk of women & self care: now we must begin to walk the walk- Part 1
SELF CARE. Boy this concept is thrown around a lot these days! We’ve had some wonderful and deeply moving conversations about this topic in our women’s health and wellness Sunday morning coaching classes. The truth is it is not just a girl’s night out, or an occasional mani/pedi or bubble bath. Self-care is one of the hardest things for many women to achieve. That is because it encompasses this: creating space for your own needs in the equation of your daily life’s activities. An equal place among the laundry list of things we women take on in our day-to-day lives. Self-care is learning to say no to the things that over extend us. Self-care is learning to say yes to the things that have value for our mental and physical health. Self-care is setting boundaries in our family, peer and work lives so that other’s needs do not crowd our waking hours so much that our own needs disappear entirely.
We women are a taught at a young age that we should be caregivers. Many of us are caregivers naturally, whether we are moms, daughters, sisters, friends, co-workers, pet owners. This is not a bad thing. This is a beautiful thing. Simultaneously we are taught that are value lies outside ourselves. Care giving is our superpower. Ironically, we aren’t conditioned to apply this superpower to ourselves. We are led to believe that nurturing ourselves makes us selfish and narcissistic. Most importantly, self-care is perceived (mostly by us women, in the end) as minimizing our value to our people and thus society.
As a result, I have seen many women carry their lack of self-care proudly, as a badge of honor. This is how society places as value on us, and eventually we accept it as truth. I have also seen many women suffer eventually with physical and emotional breakdowns because of having spent so long making their focus external. Our innate safety guide, our inner wisdom or intuition becomes buried under all of this. We lose touch with our bodies, our needs, ourselves.
This concept is vast so I will tackle it in a few posts so as not to overwhelm the subject in one strike. I will ask any reader to begin by trying this one small experiment. What does it feel like to have “nothing” to do? Take 30 min in your busy day, the smallest of windows, and just sit down with no distractions (like TV, phone, kids.) Just sit with no explanation to yourself or your people. What does that feel like in your body? Notice without fear or judgement. 30 minutes. One half of an hour in a productive 12 hour day. Can you sit with yourself? Do you feel uncomfortable? Lazy? Useless? Guilty? Do those 30 minutes feel like 3 hours? Does this feel torturous or wholly unfamiliar to your mind and body? If you said yes to any of this, stick with it. Examine closely the emotions that arrive when you sit in stillness. Examine the bodily sensations that arrive. Notice them all while reminding yourself you are safe and have value. Try this again in a few days. Notice if there are any changes. Begin this journey back into yourselves.
Making ourselves a priority is not as easy as sitting with ourselves and noticing for 30 minutes. We exist in familial, peer and work groups that have come to rely on us as we were. They have become accustomed to our roles in their systems. They will not be happy at first that you have the audacity to make changes to this system without their input. I will go into how to integrate these changes within your group systems in a later post. You simply can’t accomplish that part without addressing the foundation of this dynamic. The foundation is you. It begins with you examining the value you place on your own needs. Then examine the space your needs take up in the activities of your daily life. Examine what your personal perception of self-care is, and how it actually feels when you try it. As always, examine these things without fear or judgment. Once you can do this, you can being to formulate a plan to integrate self-care into your real lives. This journey will not be comfortable or linear. But it will be worth it. I promise!