Have you been listening to the conversation about self-care and feeling isolated and left out?
Self-care can seem very out of reach for some, especially parents and caregivers. You do deserve all the support and nourishment you need, and the reality is that sometimes (often?) it is not possible. Self-care requires that there is community care. That you have the resources of time and money to make space for yourself. It is true that many women simply lack permission to care about their needs and we do need to champion this cause. We can’t forget that it is also true that for many women their more global needs simply aren’t being met, and self-care is not possible. Probably the majority of women fall somewhere in between.
Let’s open up the self-care conversation to encompass the deeper aspects of self-care and some of the possible side-effects to using this word for this concept.
Using the word self-care focuses so much responsibility on individuals to care for themselves. This allows us as a culture to neglect caring for each other.
‘I hope you are taking good care of yourself’
‘I hope you are getting enough sleep’
These remarks come from a place of caring and they put the responsibility of caring for oneself squarely on the individual. Sometimes that individual simply cannot meet those needs. This breeds a feeling of isolation and further cultivates a feeling of lack within the one whose needs are not met.
This feeling of having the responsibility to care for self creates guilt. If I am frazzled and tired and have no time or money to care for myself, that is my fault ( responsibility). The most basic forms of self-care (being sure we are fed, hydrated, clean, rested, and are not rushed or stressed ), are some of the most challenging aspects of motherhood. Reminding women they should accomplish these things ( for themselves or to better care for their loved ones) can be hurtful and compound the very issues of women seeking nourishment. Caregivers value caregiving. If you are a caregiver and you find yourself feeling let down even after you carve out space for yourself, this may be why. The values of caregivers make giving and receiving care very important to them. Giving care to oneself, if not supported by the ones they care for, feels painful, empty and cumbersome.
Self-care is not selfish. Yet, making sure our actions are based in love for ourselves and others requires the deepest and hardest form of self-care: Self-inquiry. Without self-inquiry and inner-work, we can be misled by our desires. As we evaluate our self-care choices, we need to keep the big picture in mind. My mindfulness practice companion and beloved friend, Mariah Hoffman clarifies this big picture about self-care “ It’s caring for the self as it operates within the larger tapestry. Not caring for the individual self. Caring for yourself so you are optimally able to serve as a barometer of the universe.” You are part of the great tapestry, and if you are not nourished then the tapestry can tell. Imagine, for a moment, that everyone on the planet was nourished. Imagine what a different world it would be. Self-care is in service to the greater good, it is not selfish. But, the really good stuff starts to happen when we start doing deeper self-care work. Learning to manage our complicated emotions, learning to dissect our desires, becoming comfortable with vulnerability, authenticity, and fear. When we do this, we realize the abundance we seek is within us. It is our sharing that brings forth enough for everyone. We are not afraid to give for fear there will not be enough for us (enough food, enough love, enough time, enough money). This is not easy or quick work. It requires practice and it requires that we find the little ways to fill ourselves up on the journey.
One of the simplest ways we can start cultivating this deeper care and nourishment it to recognize our responsibility and where it lies regarding self-care. It is your responsibility to know what you need. It is your responsibility to identify what you need, what nourishes you. It is your responsibility to recognize you deserve it. Even if it isn’t possible.
Humans are supposed to take care of each other. We are social creatures. It’s okay to ask for help, and if you are not met with help, it’s okay to remember what you need anyway.
Imagine this situation. You are tired, and everyone around you is fussy. You are feeling annoyed and hear yourself say something you wish you had not.
Now, imagine you say to yourself “ I need a nap.”
That’s it. You cannot have a nap. But, you can identify what you need. When you do that you open up the possibility of finding a way to get a nap. And, you take the sting of guilt out of the situation. You are not a crabby person, just a person in need of a nap.
I need time to rest.
I need to eat something.
I need water.
I need money.
I need support from my partner/parent/friend.
I need health insurance.
I need a vacation.
I need a babysitter.
I need someone to make me dinner.
When you look at that list it is easy to see that self-care can get complicated and requires support. The famous analogy about the oxygen mask in the airplane is a great starting point for understanding the value of caring for ourselves. The reality of life is that these metaphorical oxygen masks need to be applied to yourself and everyone every day, all day long. Humans have lots of needs! We need lots of support.
What do you need today?
Below is a free Need and Nourishment guided meditation. This meditation is an invitation to start the simple but deep work of understanding your needs as part of the universal tapestry.