My experience is that self-care is rarely understood except when you are on an airplane and receive those instructions about putting on your oxygen mask before assisting those around you. I truly believe that this is the only time that self-care is advised or even mentioned in a real way, for that matter.
How do you define “self-care?” To me, it is finding out who you are and what is important to you, regardless of what that is, and being at peace with yourself. It means knowing you need not look around to see if you are doing your life right as compared with others.
If you remember only one thing about self-care, let it be that you teach people how to treat you by how you treat yourself. This is a biggie. Ever notice how we run around serving as the catch-all, and then have the nerve to wonder why so much is being asked of us?
Self-care means moving past the charge of “doing it all.” You know that ad, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan…”? Yeah, well, I believe that was taken just a tad too far. What does this teach our children? Where does this leave the men and partners in our lives? Why on earth would you want to do it all? Superwomen capes are so overrated. This topic alone is enough to fill an 80-chapter book. Don’t get me started.
Self-care means being willing to accept that all answers are inside of us if we are able to be patient and open. It also means making peace with the impermanence of everything, especially our life.
Self-care means knowing that tomorrow is going to come either way, choosing to make the best of right now, and understanding that worrying is like praying for what you don’t want.
Also know that what self-care means to me may mean something totally different to you. Our differences are what make us individuals, and they are to be celebrated.
One of my favorite memories is of a two-day unplanned visit with my sister. We hung out at her house and ate, did our hair and make-up, listened to music, melted our brains with high doses of TV, went second-hand shopping, and had a constant drip of champagne going. I did not shower for two days. There was nothing to it and it was glorious. When I returned home, I felt as though I had been away on a dream vacation.
Self-care means that you are willing to laugh at yourself and at this thing we call life.
Self-care is also being open to accepting that we create our own reality as a result of our thoughts and choices. Think about it. We put on our comfy blinders about the many choices that we make and tell ourselves over and over that we have to do this or we have to do that or the world will implode on itself. What a bunch of baloney. This self-imposed distraction drives us to sacrifice our sanity and health. Eviction notice, please.
You make the choice to do whatever it is you do and however it is you do it: feed your children; get up and go to work; resist slapping the crap out of someone who pisses you off. It’s all a choice. True, there are consequences when you choose not to pay your taxes, brush your teeth, or get out of bed. But stew on this: it’s still YOUR choice.
You get wrapped up in these stories about what you think is going on, what people think about you, and old hurtful experiences. Here’s a news flash: all that stuff bumping around in your head and clouding your mind is a distraction. You see, we’ve conditioned ourselves to spend endless amounts of time consciously and unconsciously mulling over and analyzing garbage. But you can use that same energy on healthier thoughts. Get it? You can sit and replay noise about what makes you miserable or what makes you happy, and the amount of work is the same. Take notice the next time you’re tempted by this kind of distraction, and stop. Choose to think about something else.
Let me ask you this. How much head space do you think would become available if you simply let go of those damaging, self-defeating thoughts? See what I mean?
You know another, more familiar way I describe self-care? It’s the same advice that you give a friend: “Girl, take care of yourself and don’t worry about this or that. I am here for you if you need me.” Sound familiar? Of course it does! Notice how quickly you will battle a storm for another? Just grab one crumb of the faithfulness and attention you readily give to others and give it right back to yourself.
We give and give and when it’s our turn to receive, we ruin it by focusing on how and when we can give back. You know you do. Practice your receiving skills.
While you are at it, throw in a helping of forgiveness for yourself. We are our own worst critics and I have yet to understand why. But I do know for certain that choosing to be kind and forgiving to ourselves is a long-awaited gift.
Della Rae is a Portland native and spark of inclusion and leadership projects driven by the notion that to do well, we first must be well.